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USA: Report finds that chocolate industry still relies on more than a million West African child laborers

"U.S. report: Much of the world’s chocolate supply relies on more than a million child workers", 19 October 2020.

The world’s chocolate companies depend on cocoa produced with the aid of more than 1 million West African child laborers, according to a new report sponsored by the Labor Department.

Under pressure from Congress in 2001, some of the world’s largest chocolatiers — including Nestlé, Hershey, and Mars — pledged to eradicate “the worst forms of child labor”...however, the firms have missed deadlines to eliminate child labor in 2005, 2008, and 2010...

The prevalence of child labor among agricultural households in cocoa-growing areas of Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two primary suppliers, increased from 31% to 45% between 2008 and 2019, according to the Labor Department survey...

In December, the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in a case against Nestlé and Cargill involving a group of Malians who say that as adolescents, they were forced to work on Ivory Coast cocoa farms...

Terrence Collingsworth, one of the attorneys representing the Malian plaintiffs said the problem of child labor — forced or not — arises because the 2001 pledge from the companies entailed no enforcement. "These serious human rights violations require mandatory rules with serious penalties, not empty promises from cocoa companies profiting from the exploitation of children," he said.

Regarding the lawsuit, a Nestlé statement said: "All involved agree that Nestlé never engaged in the egregious child labor alleged in this suit. This lawsuit does not advance the shared goal of ending child labor in the cocoa industry because it does not address the root causes of the issue and will not improve the conditions in West Africa."

Cargill likewise has said it has taken steps to monitor for and eradicate child labor from its West African suppliers.

In response to the new report, the chocolate companies point to programs they’ve created to monitor farms for child labor, and say they aim to expand those...

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