Advocacy group raises spectre of 'blood chocolate'

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cocoa, Ghana, Côte d'ivoire, Adm cocoa

A UK-based pressure group campaign against companies
that buy cocoa from the Ivory Coast has accused
the industry of funding conflict and civil unrest.

The campaign has brought the issue into the public limelight, putting pressure on companies to find alternate sources of supply. It is similar to the pressure put on the diamond industry which has been accused of getting "blood diamonds" from Liberia. "Cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire is the same as timber or diamonds were in Liberia",​ said the report's diplomatic source in Abidjan. Several chocolate companies have responded to the campaign by publicly disputing the claims made last week by UK-based Global Witness. In its report Global Witness names companies such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill and Barry Callebaut and claims that revenues from the Ivory Coast's largest industry are providing massive revenues for the warring government and the rebel group Forces Nouvelles (FN). The FN have accrued around €23m (US$30m) in cocoa revenues from their self imposed cocoa tax, while the government has used at least (US$30m) of cocoa profits to fund the war effort, the group claims. By trading with the Ivory Coast, chocolate companies are actually slowing down progress towards a peace agreement, the report claims. Global Witness advises chocolate companies to be more diligent in their choice of cocoa suppliers, saying that: "The chocolate industry has a responsibility to ensure that the products it sells are conflict-free. Companies should use their influence to ensure that money from cocoa levies is not misused or diverted." ​The report accuses multinationals of being passive traders in the government-controlled zone, and failing to question the misuse of taxes and levies paid to the government by cocoa bodies. Global Witness proposes that cocoa exporting companies operating in the country should publish information on the origin of the cocoa they buy, carry out due diligence on purchases, monitor their supply chain and try to ensure that they are not inadvertently providing money for warring factions. In reaction chocolate companies have started a public relations campaign to clear their names. Several chocolate companies claim that they are not passive contributors to the conflict, and that they have taken many pro-active steps in ensuring that their products are sourced and manufactured in an ethical way. ADM stated on the 7 June that they are committed to an ethical cocoa trade in Africa, recently investing in a cocoa factory in Ghana. "We will be processing cocoa closer to the farmers and providing local jobs to the community,"​ said Mark Bemis, president of ADM Cocoa. Barry Callebaut recently expanded operations in Africa, and Patrick De Maesenaire, chief executive officer, claimed in February that international companies play a vital role in "contributing to Africa's economic development."​ ADM, Cargill and Barry Callebaut are also all members of the World Cocoa Foundation, which aims to encourage sustainable cocoa production in West Africa and to help 150,000 farmers and their families over the next five years. The scheme, which is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and industry heavyweights Hershey, Cadbury and Mars, claims to be committed to ethical trading and production. Global Witness itself admits that cocoa products usually contain blends of cocoa and this makes it difficult for manufacturers to determine where the cocoa originally came from. It cites the example of Unilever, which sells about 1bn units of its Magnum ice cream brand each year. Only 10 per cent of the cocoa used in Magnum brand comes from the Ivory Coast, making it difficult for Unilever to trace the ingredients. The Ivory Coast is the world's biggest producer of cocoa, accounting for 40 per cent of world production in 2006. Cocoa is the main economic resource of the country, representing on average 35 per cent of the total exports value. Global Witness reports that more than 90 per cent of Ivorian cocoa is exported to Europe and North America, with 60.1 per cent of exports going to the EU in the growing season 2005-2006.

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