Tuesday, August 6, 2019

U.S. senators demand more federal action to stop cocoa imports made with forced child labour

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, calling on the Administration to enforce existing law and investigate and block any cocoa imports produced with forced child labour.

The Senators’ letter follows a Washington Post report detailing the prevalence of child labour in the production of cocoa imported to the U.S. by large chocolate companies. These companies, including Hershey, Mars and Nestle, originally agreed to eradicate child labour from their supply chains in West Africa by 2005.

The global cocoa trade is significant, and the U.S. is a large importer of cocoa products.  In 2018 alone, the U.S. imported $608 million of cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast, in addition to $100 million of cocoa paste. Given the prevalence of forced child labour in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa sector, it is clear at least some, if not a significant portion of those imports, were produced with forced child labour.  It is time the U.S. took more aggressive action to combat forced child labour in the cocoa sector and to fully enforce Section 1307 as Congress intended,” the Senators wrote.

"More than 20 years ago, the Department of Labour (DOL) and Congress worked with large chocolate companies to develop a framework to eradicate child labour from their supply chains in West Africa, which sources the vast majority of cocoa worldwide.  These companies committed to eradicating child labour from cocoa production in West African countries, including the Ivory Coast, by 2005.   Unfortunately, they missed that deadline and several subsequent ones, and the widespread use of child labour in the sector persists.  According to DOL, more than two million children continue to perform the hazardous work of harvesting cocoa in West Africa." 

In their letter, the Senators press Acting Secretary McAleenan to instruct Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to block cocoa imports made with forced labour and, where appropriate, pursue criminal investigations.

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE.

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