Ivory Coast rejects US proposal to block its cocoa from US ports to fight child labor

Author: Peter Whoriskey, The Washington Post, Published on: 9 August 2019

"U.S. weighs plan to block cocoa imports produced with child labor. Ivory Coast calls ban unfair.", 7 August 2019

A proposed U.S. ban on cocoa from Ivory Coast...is facing strong political resistance from the West African nation. First lady Dominique Ouattara convened a meeting this week in Abidjan with nine Capitol Hill staffers and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) to lay out arguments against a proposal to block Ivorian cocoa from U.S. ports. The call to ban Ivorian cocoa and the chocolate produced with it came from two U.S. senators who last month cited “overwhelming evidence” that the Ivorian cocoa harvest depends on forced child labor. For that reason, they said, such products should be prohibited from reaching the U.S. market. But Ouattara said a cocoa embargo by the United States would harm Ivorian farmers and set back the country’s efforts to eradicate child labor, which she leads...

“I think [the proposal] would punish an entire country and farmers, who are struggling to survive and would be unfair to the work we are doing,” Ouattara said at the meeting. For nearly 20 years, the Ivorian government, cocoa wholesalers and the world’s largest chocolate companies — including Mars, Nestlé and Hershey — have acknowledged the role of child labor in the cocoa supply chain and pledged to eradicate it. The companies have instituted programs to monitor their supply chains and more recently turned to “third-party certifiers” — such as Fairtrade America and Rainforest Alliance — to police their cocoa supplies. None of the efforts, however, has eradicated the practice...more than 2 million children have been engaged in child labor in West African cocoa farms, according to government estimates. Most of those are children working on family farms, and many forgo schooling to do so...

“Forced child labor is abhorrent to all companies in the cocoa industry, and we strongly support United States Government efforts to monitor and stop any shipments of products made with forced labor,” Richard Scobey, president of the industry group World Cocoa Foundation, said in a statement. “The World Cocoa Foundation encourages everyone in the supply chain — companies, farmers and governments — to commit to fair and equitable labor practices.”

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Related companies: Hershey Mars Nestlé