The Economy

According to the World Cocoa Foundation, some 50 million people around the world depend on the $100+ billion industry that cocoa and chocolate has become, as a source of livelihood.

But there is a concern that the industry wont be all that sweet & tasty in the near future. In fact, the demand of chocolate is predicted to increase by 30% by year 2020. As this is a fairly huge and complex aspect of cocoa and chocolate’s impact on the economy, I will reside to quote TheGuardian on this matter:

This [30% rise] should be good news for farmers and businesses alike. But complacency and disregard for the livelihoods of more than five million small-scale family farmers who grow 90% of the world’s cocoa mean that the industry may simply be unable to provide sufficient supply to meet the demand.

But what does this “complacency and disregard for the livelihoods of more than five million small-scale family farmers”  actually mean in black and white? Well, take a look at the numbers below:

Even as cocoa prices rise, farmers have not been capturing their fair share. Growers in West Africa are likely to receive just 3.5% to 6.4% of the final value of a chocolate bar, depending on the percentage of cocoa content – a disastrous fall compared with 16% in the late 1980s. By contrast, the manufacturers’ share has increased from 56% to 70% and the retailers’ from 12% to 17% over the same period.

So farmers are required to work longer and are simultaneously paid less (sounds familiar?) And the article continues:

As prices of food and other costs rise, the failure to capture sufficient value from their crop means that many cocoa farmers are abandoning the industry. Many of their children see no future in cocoa and are switching to more profitable rubber production or heading for the cities in the hope of finding a better livelihood. As a result, the average age of cocoa farmers in West Africa is now 51, leading to serious concerns across the industry about the long-term sustainability of the supply chain: no cocoa farmers = no chocolate bars.

The elephant in the room

It is no secret (or at least it shouldn’t be) that many cocoa farmers resort to child labour. But given the reasons stated above, it becomes clear that these farmers are not evil, they do not wish the worst for the kids and they certainly do not pressure the kids out of joy.

Child labour is just a means of survival for the millions of farmers who wish to keep themselves and their families fed, and, given the reasons above, it becomes clear that child labour is a necessity for many of these farmers – they simply cannot stay in business without the underpaid workers.

As unmerciful as it may sound, child labour is just that – a means of survival for the millions of farmers who wish to keep feeding their families but have to succumb to the ever decreasing revenue. Earning just $0.25 – 0.50 a day is a harsh reality for the majority, and they face a continuous cycle of poverty if us Westerners keep on ignoring them.


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