A US Customs & Border Protection group began investigating congressional charges last week that cocoa is produced, harvested, and processed in the nation of Ivory Coast through the use of large numbers of indentured children — children who have been taken from their homes and put to work for minimal or no pay in order to pay off their parent’s debts.
The investigation is the result of a letter from 2 senators last summer requesting custom officers to produce an order to block raw and processed cocoa from the Ivory Coast into the United States unless the cargo can be proven to have no forced child labor ties. This ban, if put into practice, would have a steep impact on chocolate production and prices in the United States, since the Ivory Coast is currently the planet’s major supplier of cocoa, according to the experts at Jason D. Mills & Associates.
The letter asking for the ban comes from Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, and Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. The letter, in part, says that the failure of chocolate companies in the United States and in other countries to police the production of cocoa that is free from forced child labor means that the United States government must take a hand in stamping out this practice by means of bans and boycotts.
It remains to be seen how much of a protest the candy lobby will put up against such a ban, which would mean that chocolate manufacturers would need to find another cheap source of raw cocoa — possibly from South America or Southeast Asia. Most chocolate industry experts agree that if the Ivory Coast ban goes into effect, the price of a chocolate bar or any candy containing chocolate could increase by as much as 25 percent, according to the experts at DePaolo & Zadeikis.
The Ivorian government has promised to step up efforts to eradicate forced child labor within its own borders.