The dark side of the chocolate factory

March 24, 2015 by Mark Dunn

With Easter around the corner, many minds will undoubtedly be moving towards chocolate.  As a nation of chocoholics, more than 90 million chocolate eggs are sold in the UK during the Easter period alone. This surprisingly accounts for just 10% of UK chocolate spending for the entire year.

On a comforting note to chocolate lovers, a new study reveals that chocolate consumption may also be expanding the mind.  The New England Journal of Medicine found a significant linear correlation between the amount of chocolate a country consumes on average and the number of Nobel Laureates that country has produced.

Chocolate was first produced as a solid in the form of a bar in 1847 and for more than 160 years people across the globe have enjoyed its taste, beauty and effectiveness as a food source.

With such popularity, chocolate is big business.  The global chocolate industry is worth approximately $110 billion.

Despite a recent controversy surrounding its constitution, the world's most popular egg-shaped chocolate is still the Cadbury's Creme Egg.  Workers at the Cadbury factory produce 1.5 million eggs every day, equating to more than 62,000 Cream Eggs every hour!

Given our national obsession with all things chocolate, few realise what it takes to produce the chocolate, or even where most of it comes from.

It takes the whole of one year's crop from one tree to make just half a kilo of the cocoa powder that forms the basis of both solid and drinking chocolate.  Africa now produces more than 66% of the world's supply of chocolate and more than a third of this comes from the Ivory Coast.

Harvesting the cocoa is backbreaking and hazardous work. Harvesters venture into the bush to access the trees and wield razor sharp machetes to cut down the pods and crack them open.  The cocoa is then extracted, dried and bagged for sale.  In many cases children carry out this work. 

Despite improvements in the chocolate industry, human trafficking is still rampant.

Gathering accurate statistics on the problem is almost impossible, but it is estimated that child labour on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana increased from 300,000 to 1 million from 2007-2013, and that a significant portion of these children have been trafficked.

Since 2007, STOP THE TRAFFIK has been raising awareness about this issue and campaigning for 'traffik-free Chocolate'.  A recent STOP THE TRAFFIK and LexisNexis joint report aims to raise the issue further by exposing the link between human trafficking and the chocolate industry. 

Chocolate companies have a responsibility to take serious, effective action to address the factors that contribute to children being trafficked to work on cocoa farms.

The large organisations that dominate the global chocolate industry hold an enormous amount of power when compared to the cocoa farmers, workers and co-ops on the ground in West Africa.  With this power, comes responsibility; noblesse oblige. 


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p.s. 3 ways you can apply this information right now to better understand your responsibility in Human Trafficking awareness

  1. Read the STOP THE TRAFFIK and LexisNexis report on link between chocolate and human trafficking.
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