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European resolution on cocoa child labour can boost quality cocoa supply, says CAOBISCO

By Oliver Nieburg , 14-Mar-2012
Last updated on 16-Mar-2012 at 11:43 GMT

The European Parliament today gave its consent to the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement and passed a resolution on child labour in the cocoa sector in a move that will benefit manufacturers, according to industry bodies.

The Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries (CAOBISCO) along with the World Cocoa Foundation, the European Cocoa Association and the Federation of Cocoa Commerce all welcomed European Parliament’s consent, which it said in a joint statement would reinforce cooperation between private and public sectors to trace child labour in cocoa production.

Holistic approach to child labour

Shortly after the vote was passed, CAOBISCO secretary-general Sabine Nafziger told ConfectioneryNews.com: “Thanks to this discussion a lot of attention has been drawn to industry issues in the last decade.”

She said this had allowed for a holistic approach in tackling child labour.

According to Nafziger sustainability had been at the heart of the agreement, which had allowed both the social or human cost of child labour to be considered and the economic interests of manufacturers.

She added that by tracing supply chains all parties could assess the extent of the problem and take steps to eradicate child labour, which would improve the quality of cocoa and ensure a more consistent supply.

Studies carried out in West Africa have shown that around 284,000 children work on cocoa farms in West Africa. Around 64% are under 14-years-old and more than 150,000 apply pesticides without protective equipment.

Reputation at stake

Although the agreement and resolution urges manufacturers to take responsibility for child labour on cocoa farms, companies are under no obligation to trace whether children work on farms supplying their factories and face no sanctions.

“There is a big big reputation issue,” warned Nafziger.

“In order to ensure the sustainable supply of raw material in quality and quantity, the livelihoods of farmers needs to be improved.”

Public/Private partnerships

Nafziger said the industry needed to work closely with origin countries such as Ghana and Ivory Coast.

She said the industry could finance one or two schools, but it needed more financial support from governments to ensure no children were working on farms during school hours.

She added that the industry supported third-party auditing and said the agreement allowed for further public-private partnerships to trace cocoa child labour within supply chains.

Nestle recently allowed the Fair Labor Association (FLA)to probe its supply chain for child labour after it said it was “sure” the practice occurred on farms supplying its factories.

Nafziger said Nestle was such a big cocoa user that it was very difficult to argue the contrary and no company could make 100% guarantees.

She added that the industry was working with European Committee CEN to develop a Standard for Traceable and Sustainable Cocoa, which would begin in May.

Labelling and amendments

Among the final amendments to the child labour resolution, was the removal of a provision that said not all work done by children should be classed as child labour to be targeted for elimination.

No provision was added to introduce ‘child labour free’ labelling regulations as previously touted by some MEPs.

Natzinger feared this could make a marketing tool out of something that should be mainstream and defeated the purpose of eliminating child labour.

“You can’t promise something you cannot guarantee. You need to be able to trace to make these claims,” she said.

The 2010 International Cocoa Agreement replaces the last agreement from 2001 and will be applicable for the next 10 years.

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