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The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley in the Ivory Coast
reports about a boy sold to a cocoa plantation
 real 56k

Christian Aid's Andrew Pendleton
"The global price for cocoa is too low"
 real 56k

John Newman from BCCCA
"What is at issue here is the criminal abuse of vulnerable people"
 real 28k

Brian Wilson MP, Foreign Office Minister
"We've established a task force"
 real 56k

Friday, 4 May, 2001, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
UK joins fight against 'chocolate slavery'
Cocoa plantation in Ghana
More developing countries are growing cocoa
The UK has joined efforts to fight child labour and poverty on west African cocoa plantations.

After meeting with officials of the government of Ghana and Ivory Coast on Friday, British Foreign Office minister Brian Wilson said a new taskforce would be set up with their co-operation to examine the issue.

Chocolate manufacturers have been blamed for helping to create market conditions which encourage child slavery and poverty in the African cocoa industry.

But a spokeswoman for the Fair Trade Foundation said the task force could be "meaningless" unless the low price manufacturers which pay for cocoa is addressed.

The challenge is to ensure that good practice is spread, and the worst weeded out

Brian Wilson
Foreign Office Minister for Africa
Announcing the new task force, Mr Wilson said: "It is clear that forced labour is used in some sectors of the cocoa industry, though there is no evidence it is widespread.

He said Britain wanted west African states to sign a treaty establishing a legal framework for combating slavery and forced labour.

The taskforce will draw together governments, the industry and non-governmental organisations to address the issues, he said.

Farmers destitute

But Mr Wilson warned that a boycott on west African cocoa would deepen "the poverty on which slavery thrives".

"The challenge for us is to ensure that good practice is spread, and the worst weeded out," he said.

Many Ivory Coast farmers have ended up destitute waiting for the price of cocoa, which has been low for the past 18 months, to rise.

Large warehouses in west Africa buy cocoa cheap and sell it on with a 100% mark-up.

This also makes it difficult to trace the origins of the product and establish whether child slavery is involved.

Ivory Coast Prime Minister, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, said chocolate companies were only interested in profits and called for a tenfold increase in the price of cocoa.

'Supply and demand'

But John Newman, a spokesman for the Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance, said companies had been unaware of the problem until a journalistic investigation revealed it last September.

He said the industry had had a lot of contact on the ground over "many years" with Ivory Coast cocoa farmers.

But he blamed the price of cocoa on the "laws of supply and demand".

The not enough to cover the cost of production

Julia Powell
Fair Trade Foundation
Mr Newman told the BBC: "Over the last 10 years or so all the cocoa producing countries have found it remunerative to plant cocoa and increase production.

"We have relatively high production, relatively high stocks and fairly static demand. Unfortunately that is not a recipe for high prices."

He denied the industry favoured low cocoa prices, saying: "What we would like to see is a fair remunerative price which will encourage the farmers to grow and enable the industry to maintain access to constant supplies."

'Social costs'

But Julia Powell of the Fair Trade Foundation said more needed to be done.

She told the BBC: "The price that poverty stricken cocoa farmers are getting is not enough to cover the cost of production.

"Unless the manufacturers are prepared to buy direct from farmers' organisations and pay a price that covers their social costs as well as production, there is more that we can be doing."

She said an increasing number of UK consumers were "very concerned about these issues".

Ms Powell said: "Those people could now be buying fair trade marked chocolate in their supermarkets and the manufacturers could introduce their own range of Fair Trade chocolates."

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See also:

06 Aug 99 | Africa
West Africa's child slave trade
28 Sep 00 | Africa
The bitter taste of slavery
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