Subject Material

The Bitter Taste of Chocolate

Published: 26.03.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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The Danish produced documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” recently created headlines in media worldwide. Watch the trailer The Dark Side of Chocolate and ponder the questions listed below:
  • How many tons of chocolate do we eat every year?
  • What is referred to when the film producers called their documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate”?
  • Why do you think it was necessary to use hidden cameras and be undercover when producing this documentary?
  • Why do you think this documentary got worldwide attention?
Cocoa - Child Labour (laborrights.org)Cocoa - Child Labour (laborrights.org) 

Cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast

According to a 2004 report carried out by the US Department of State it is estimated that more than 100,000 children between the ages of eight and twelve work on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa and provides 40% of the global supply. From West Africa the beans are shipped to manufacturers in Europe and the USA. The Ivory Coast’s economy is highly dependent on the cocoa beans and very vulnerable to fluctuations in the market price. Low cocoa prices make it tempting for the farmers to maintain their labour force through trafficking, and there is evidence that 10,000 children in the country are victims of child trafficking. The documentary reveals that poor parents in the neighbouring countries, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, sell their kids to the cocoa farms for $50 - $100 or they are kidnapped by human smugglers. These children work with dangerous machetes up to 100 hours a week for low or no pay and they are exposed to physical beating and harmful toxic pesticides that are banned in European countries. When the producers of the documentary reported their findings to The International Labour Organization, which is organized under the UN, it strongly condemned this exploitation of children.

Chocolate manufacturers

The largest chocolate manufacturers in the world, Nestle, Hershey, Mars and the primary suppliers to the Norwegian chocolate industry, Cargill ADM and Barry Callebaot, insist that the beans are harvested at small family-run farms and that the children in the family help out in the work. However, all the farms that the Danish reporters visited employed children with no parents nearby and the hidden cameras revealed horrible working conditions.


Consumer power

Do we want this bitter taste to our chocolate? The power definitely lies with us, the consumers. If we demand clean brands and fair trade products, the manufacturers have to commit. If we are willing to pay more for our sweets, we can change the lives of children in West Africa. Fair trade is designed as a social movement to provide fair prices for the farmers in developing countries and to promote sustainable production methods. A lot of coffee brands with fair trade labels are available. This proves that it must be possible to do the same with chocolate. If we are picky about the type of chocolate we buy and stop getting our candy from "strangers", we may push the large corporations to abolish child slavery. However, if we stop eating sweets altogether, the dentist may be happy, but it would be a disaster for poor farmers in West Africa.

Comprehension

These are the answers, what are the questions?

  1. More than 100,000 children work on the cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast.
  2. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa.
  3. The practice is maintained since the cocoa prices are low.
  4. They insist that there are just family members that work on the farms.
  5. We can buy fair trade products.
  6. The coffee industry is a good example.
  7. It would be a disaster for poor West African farmers.

Vocabulary

Place the following words from the text in the blanks.

abolish, labels, demand, brands, manufacturer, pesticides, exploitation, fair trade, vulnerable, condemns, available

  1. The child workers in the farms are exposed to………
  2. Nestle is a major…………..in the chocolate business.
  3. Various coffee……….are ………. as ………..products.
  4. If the consumers……..it, the big companies have to change their……...of children.
  5. It is important to …………child slavery.
  6. The economy is extremely…………to the fall and rise of the coffee bean prices.
  7. The International Labour Organization………child slavery.
Key
  1. pesticides
  2. manufacturer
  3. brands, available, fair trade
  4. demand, exploitation
  5. abolish
  6. vulnerable
  7. condemns
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Find out and discuss

What is the basic idea behind the fair-trade system? http://www.fairtrade.net/ 

Scan through the article, Tackling Child Labour in the Chocolate Industry - What Role can Fairtrade Play? What is suggested? Jot down a few key words before you debate: How can we as consumers use our power to obtain ethical and greener products?

What happened to Olaudah Equiano in the 1750s? Is this comparable to what happens to the kids from West African countries today? Discuss .