Where does all that chocolate come from? West Africa produces 70% of the world’s cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate,) and 40% of that comes from the Ivory Coast. Big corporations purchase most of this cacao from intermediaries to make the chocolate bars and candy that you see in stores worldwide.
The story behind that supply chain is a grim one: illegal child labor in West Africa is a problem that has plagued the chocolate industry for decades, with little improvement despite international pressure.
Without access to the market, many family-owned cacao farms rely on intermediaries to buy their crop, but these middlemen pay so little that many farmers struggle to get by. Out of desperation, some turn to illegal child labor and enlist kids from their extended families or communities to work excessively long, hazardous days in the field – to an abusive extreme far beyond normal chores or help.
Thousands of other children are trafficked from Mali and Burkina Faso and sold to cacao farmers in the Ivory Coast. These adolescents, desperate for work to help support their families, are deceived by traffickers who promise them good jobs. Once over the border, far from home and their own languages, these children are also forced to work long days of dangerous labor with no access to education, proper nutrition or health care. Most are unable to escape or seek help.
Despite this being a well-documented, ongoing crisis, we have seen little actual progress where it is needed most. And it is this cacao, harvested by exploited children, that often ends up in mainstream chocolate.
The Equal Exchange supply chain is different: we work with small farmer co-operatives in Peru, Panama, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. We have a close working relationship with our farmer partners and visit their co-ops often – we know them, and they know us. We’re invested in the well-being and success of the individuals, communities and small businesses behind our chocolate.
We’re working to promote a system that eliminates the desperation that causes some farmers to use unpaid laborers. In our system, there are no middlemen or brokers, and our producer partners receive above-market prices for their crops and other Fair Trade benefits. Additionally, nonprofit, independent certifying organizations monitor these cacao farms to verify that they follow fair labor standards. In every sweet square of our chocolate, there is integrity, honesty and pride.
You can help change the face of the chocolate industry and promote a system where all workers are paid a fair price. This year, give your neighbors a fairly traded treat: Halloween chocolate that supports fair wages, farmer-run businesses and sustainable agriculture. Celebrate the holiday by handing out chocolate that makes a statement in support of a healthy supply chain, and tell your neighbors why it matters to you.
It’s easy to add Fair Trade to any of your Halloween traditions. Our dark and milk Chocolate Minis are perfect for trick-or-treaters, and Halloween-themed baked goods taste even sweeter with fairly traded chocolate chips or baking cocoa. We’ve even collected some of our favorite recipes for you to try.
Take a break from scary stories and spread the word about fairly traded Halloween chocolate — better for farmers, communities and kids all over the world. This year, celebrate with us and Fair Trade your Halloween.