This program was made possible with financial support of the Government of Manitoba,
and was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
Posted September 3rd 2009
By Zack Gross Featured in The Brandon Sun, August 29, 2009
Cadbury’s, Canada’s largest confectionery company, will make one of its most successful chocolate bar brands, Cadbury Dairy Milk, available as certified fair trade in this country by next summer, 2010. Twenty-two million dairy milk bars are sold annually in Canada. Thus, their going fair trade will double the number of fair trade chocolate bars sold each year across the country and will also mean that 11% of the chocolate sold by Cadbury’s in Canada will be fair trade. This announcement was made in Toronto in late August, and simultaneously for Australia and New Zealand. Back in March of this year, Cadbury’s made a similar announcement regarding its sales in Great Britain and Ireland, and went fair trade in July.
“Fair trade is designed to improve the lives of cocoa farmers in Ghana, West Africa by guaranteeing fair payment for their crop, and also paying an additional social premium fee that goes to community improvements. Canadians will have the opportunity to be catalysts of change by purchasing Fair Trade Certified Dairy Milk chocolate, knowing it will improve the lives of 40,000 farmers”, stated the Manager for Cadbury Canada. He pointed out that his company has already transferred almost a million dollars in social premium to Ghana through the British fair trade process.
A spokesperson for a cocoa production cooperative in Ghana responded, saying that these funds will go toward the construction of fourteen community health and agricultural extension projects in the coming year. TransFair Canada, our national Fair Trade Certification body, will monitor the process and ensure that regulations are followed, “ensuring a guaranteed income and hope for a prosperous future for 40,000 cocoa farmers and 6,000 sugar farmers”. All of this is part of the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, a global initiative supported by the United Nations Development Program that not only offers a better economic deal for producers, but also works to improve crop yields and expand biodiversity. Already, 850 wells have been dug, libraries and schools are being built, and the company will send 5,000 bicycles to Ghana, to improve transportation and children’s access to schools.
Ghana is one of the six largest cocoa producing countries in the world, with Ivory Coast leading the way with 43% of the world’s cocoa, and Ghana second at 32%. Forty percent of Ghana’s export revenue comes from cocoa and two million of its farmers are involved in cocoa production. However, in West Africa, research done by a number of government, UN and agricultural organizations has shown that almost 300,000 children are performing hazardous labour on cocoa plantations, such as using machetes to cut down and slice open cocoa pods and applying pesticides without any protective equipment. Many of these kids work on family farms and they and their families are victims of extreme poverty. Others are clearly victims of child trafficking, having been marched to the cocoa plantations from as far away as neighbouring countries in slave labour situations, working twelve hours per day, seven days per week, getting no pay or schooling. Two-thirds of these workers are under age fourteen.
In early August, Interpol, the international policing agency, reported that it had rescued 54 children of seven different nationalities who were being trafficked in the cocoa and palm plantations on the Ghana-Ivory Coast border. These children, aged eleven to sixteen, worked in the fields the twelve hours days with no education, and girls also added housekeeping duties to their labours. None of the children knew that child labour was illegal, and none had ever tasted chocolate. Many children are injured or die on the job and those who try to escape are severely dealt with.
One cause of child labour on the cocoa plantations is the low return to producers. A West African family makes $30 to $100 annually in the trade, insufficient to meet their needs. One village chief complained to inspectors that their income was not enough for the village to pump in clean water, resulting in rampant disease from drinking dirty river water. Even when cocoa prices rise, villages must sell through exploitive middlemen who take half the revenue. With the recent world economic downturn, producers have had even less money to pay workers, so they are forced to exploit family members, and they have no money for agricultural inputs, so yields drop as well. The multi-billion dollar global chocolate industry has not, until now, shown much interest in reforming as a corporate citizen. Advocacy organizations have tried to pressure companies such as Hershey’s and World’s Finest through letter writing campaigns and by promoting fair trade alternatives.
Cadbury’s announcement has been met with excitement. The paradigm shift to fair trade in a variety of products continues. Look for the Fair Trade Certified logo on Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars next summer. When I see it, I’ll believe it and I’ll eat it!
Zack Gross works for the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC), a coalition of over forty international development organizations active in our province. Learn more about fair trade at www.fairtrademanitoba.ca.
For more articles by Zack Gross visit the link below.