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Child slavery: the real cost of a Golden Ticket

Media Release

For immediate release: September 2, 2005

Child slavery: the real cost of a Golden Ticket

Nestlé’s Golden Ticket competition is making dreams come true for five lucky children in New Zealand, but the sweet front of the chocolate industry conceals a nightmarish reality for millions of children in West Africa. While Nestlé take advantage of the forthcoming New Zealand release of the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a US lawsuit has been filed alleging Nestlé’s involvement in the trafficking, torture and forced labour of children who cultivate and harvest the cocoa that Nestlé imports from West Africa.

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a group of children from Mali who claim to have been sold into slavery in the Ivory Coast, where they were forced to work for several years with no pay, enduring physical abuse.

An alarming incidence of widespread child labour, and in some cases child slavery, has been documented in the cocoa industry. In 2001, the international chocolate industry was forced to publicly acknowledge the presence of child slavery on cocoa farms in West Africa, where most of the world’s cocoa is produced. In response, key industry players including Nestlé, committed to developing a certification system to ensure that their products were free from child slavery by 1 July 2005.

“The industry, however, has failed miserably to meet its commitment,” says Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “The underlying cause of child slavery is the low prices paid to the cocoa farmers and the cocoa industry has shown no indication of addressing that basic issue.”

“Child slavery is an abomination. Nestlé must urgently make true their commitment to ensure they have no part in it. The contrast with Willy Wonka’s magical world could not be greater.”

The struggle to keep costs down has forced farmers to utilise all available labour – most commonly their own children, but also child slaves from the poverty-stricken neighbouring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso.

“These children are being denied an education,” says Coates. “They often face hazardous conditions in their work, and they face a future of poverty.

While the big players in the chocolate industry fail to meet their social commitments, consumers around the world are turning to an ethically more satisfying alternative – Fairtrade certified chocolate. Under the Fairtrade system, cocoa farmers are guaranteed a fair price, removing the need for child and slave labour, which are prohibited. The higher incomes and investment in local community development which are integral to Fairtrade offer farmers’ children the opportunity of an education.

In New Zealand, Oxfam has been encouraging consumers to demand Fairtrade products. Sales of Fairtrade certified coffee grew by more than 4000% last year as consumers responded to Oxfam’s Fairtrade coffee campaign and Oxfam anticipates similar growth as Fairtrade chocolate becomes more widely available in New Zealand.


Editors Notes

- On 14th July 2005, Wiggins, Childs, Quinn & Pantazis (a civil-rights firm) and the International Labour Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle and others on behalf of a class of children from Mali who were allegedly trafficked to the Ivory Coast where they worked as slave on cocoa farms.

- Under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol, key stakeholders in the cocoa industry (including Nestle, Cadbury-Schweppes and Mars) committed to eliminating the use of abusive child labour in cocoa growing. The Protocol promised to develop global, industry-wide standards and independent monitoring, reporting and public certification to identify and eliminate any usage of the worst forms of child labour in the growing and processing of cocoa beans by 1st July 2005. But by 1st July 2005 there had been limited progress in the design and implementation of a monitoring or certification program and the industry has extended its deadline by a further 3 years to July 2008.

- According to the International Cocoa Organisation, over 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa and the Ivory Coast produces 44% of the world’s cocoa.

- A 2002 study of cocoa farming in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture found that:

o nearly 12,000 child labourers in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast had no relatives in the area, suggesting they were trafficked as slaves.

o over 200,000 children were engaged in hazardous tasks (such as the use of machetes and exposure to pesticides without protection) on cocoa farms in the region.

o the average annual earnings from cocoa farming range from US$30 per person to US$110 per person in the region.

Oxfam New Zealand is promoting fair trade in New Zealand, but has no commercial interest in the sale of fair trade products. The Oxfam chocolate available in Trade Aid shops has been sourced from Oxfam Belgium, an affiliate of Oxfam New Zealand.


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