British cocoa industry & govt discuss child labour issue

Related tags Cocoa Cadbury plc Africa

The British cocoa and chocolate industry and government officials
will support an investigation into forced child labour in West
African cocoa plantations.

The British cocoa and chocolate industry and government officials will support an investigation into forced child labour in West African cocoa plantations, a spokesperson from the British foreign ministry said on July 26. A one-day workshop held in London on July 25 brought together cocoa traders, manufacturers, retailers, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and government officials from the U.K. and West Africa to discuss working practices in cocoa plantations. "The participants expressed their desire to find realistic solutions to any problem of forced child labour and trafficking connected to cocoa production,"​ said a spokesperson at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which hosted the workshop. Recent media reports on the use of child slaves in West African cocoa production have pressured the global chocolate and cocoa industry to reassure consumers on the origin of beans. Chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury Schweppes Plc and Mars Confectionery UK confirmed they sent representatives to attend the meeting. "We agree very much with the conclusions which were reached and are fully participating in the programmes that are going ahead,"​ a spokesperson for Cadburys told Reuters. The ministry spokesperson said that participants underlined the complexity and the sensitivity of the issue and urged for it to be handled at a sub-regional level. Authorities in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, have set up a host of measures to halt child trafficking from its neighbouring countries. However, the Ivorian authorities, global cocoa operators and trade associations believe reports of slavery have been exaggerated and are unrepresentative of most cocoa plantations. "Whilst all agree that exploitative child labour is not widespread in cocoa production, and is not unique to cocoa growing, or indeed West Africa, we all share a firm commitment to eradicate these illegal practices,"​ John Newman, chairman of Britain's chocolate industry body, the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance (BCCCA), said in a statement. Participants at the meeting agreed to support a survey that will investigate the scale of the problem in the course of the next crop season. "We had a good forum with a cross-section of organisations brought together. Clearly, they have made some conclusions which will take it (issue) forward,"​ Phil Sigley, chief executive of the Cocoa Association of London (CAL) trade body, told Reuters. They also agreed to participate in a regional conference to be hosted by Ivory Coast in September, as well as creating a task force that would look at ways of increasing the effectiveness of existing measures and visit the region later in the year. "Tackling this issue needs input at many different levels and so we are pleased that the task force members include governments, our industry and other key players,"​ Newman said.

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