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Media release: Chocolate leaves a bitter after-taste for some farmers, especially after COVID-19

Chocolate is big business the world over, especially at Easter, but many cocoa farmers continue to live below the poverty line and their children are at greater risk of child labour now than before the pandemic.

Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) CEO, Molly Harriss Olson, is calling for shoppers to consider the impact their buying decisions can have this Easter.

Listen to Fairtrade ANZ CEO discuss Fairtrade chocolate on ABC Radio – Monday April 5 2021

“The chocolate industry is worth 150 billion US dollars every year. What’s even more surprising is that over half of the cocoa for our chocolate comes from just two African countries – Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana,” she says.

“The problem is that in those two countries, the typical cocoa farmer earns less than a dollar a day. So even though you might pay pretty high prices for your Easter eggs, that money isn’t going back the farmers.”

Studies during 2020 showed that Covid-19 was likely to be a disaster for millions of children. Closures of schools, family illness and limits on migrant labour are all expected to have resulted in higher numbers of children being sent to work. This is particularly the case in cocoa farms in Africa where child labour is already a recognised problem.

“Fairtrade works on a couple of levels to deal with child labour,” says Ms Harriss Olson.

“Of course, Fairtrade prohibits child labour. The Fairtrade standards that our producers must meet have specific requirements around child labour conventions. Just as importantly though, we work to address the root cause of the problem which is poverty.”

Fairtrade certified chocolate, which features the Fairtrade logo, has been bought at a minimum Fairtrade price which is generally higher than the market price and not subject to the same fluctuations. Fairtrade farmers, who work in cooperatives, also receive an extra Fairtrade Premium for each tonne of cocoa they sell.

This Premium doesn’t go directly to individual farmers but instead goes to the cooperative and the whole group decides together how that community development fund should be spent. Cocoa farming communities have benefitted from this money in a variety of ways including building health infastructure, developing environmental sustainability measures, and even paying for birth certificates so children can go to school.

The cocoa trade is a complicated system but Fairtrade is taking a holistic approach through pricing and standards to support sustainability.

“At Fairtrade we recognise that cocoa farmers need – and deserve – to earn a decent living. This in turn allows them to adjust to climate change, support gender equality and send their children to school,” says Ms Harriss Olson.

For interviews with Fairtrade ANZ CEO, Molly Harriss Olson, please contact Virginia Jones, Ph: 0439 430 033 or email virginia@fairtrade.com.au.