The Ivorian cocoa industry, which produces over 30% of the world’s cocoa, is notoriously rife with child labor. For years companies such as Nestlé, Mars, Hershey, and Cargill have promised to make real changes and eliminate child labor in their supply chains. And yet, despite these promises, little has changed.
This Valentine’s Day, CAL, together with International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates), filed a Section 307 petition with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking CBP to issue a Withhold and Release Order (WRO) against companies importing cocoa products from Cote d’Ivoire that are “manufactured in any part with” forced labor, including forced child labor (read our Press Release here). The petition seeks a WRO after six months if the named companies are unable to prove they have eradicated child labor from their supply chains. To show this, the petition argues that the companies must publicly release their entire supply chains, down to the farm level.
The Ivorian Cocoa Industry
For decades companies have promised to make significant changes to their cocoa supply chains. And yet child labor, including forced child labor, is still endemic to the West African cocoa industry. There is clear evidence that children from Mali and Burkina Faso are trafficked into Cote d’Ivoire to work on farms, as well as evidence of internal trafficking of children. Children between the ages of 10 and 18 are often lured by promises of money or other gifts to travel to work on cocoa farms. There, these children often perform the worst forms of child labor, using machetes and dangerous pesticides, often without pay.
Child labor has been a constant issue in the cocoa industry. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a campaign to pressure companies to stop using child labor and to pay adult workers a living wage culminated in an attempt by then-Congressman Bernie Sanders and Representative Elliot Engel to introduce legislation to ban cocoa harvested with child labor from being imported into the U.S. Major chocolate and cocoa companies, including those cited in today’s petition, fought hard against the bill. The result was the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary initiative that gave companies until 2005 eliminate child labor from their supply chains. Fifteen years after the deadline, forced child labor is still a real problem in the Ivorian cocoa industry. Companies continue to import cocoa and chocolate produced in part by forced and child labor. While claiming to work to eradicate child labor, these same companies make huge profits off of the cheap and unsustainable prices they pay to farmers.
Section 307 of the Tariff Act allows CBP to take action to stop the importation of goods “manufactured in any part with” forced labor. Under 19 C.F.R.§ 12.42 (e), if the [Customs and Border Protection] Commissioner finds that “information available reasonably but not conclusively indicates that merchandise … is being, or is likely to be, imported” into the US, s/he can issue a WRO for those goods. A WRO will stop the goods at the border where there is reasonable belief that such goods were manufactured at least in part with forced labor. The WRO, in effect, shifts the burden of proof to the companies to show their imports were not manufactured in any part using forced labor.
Read the full article here.