Two US Senators have written to the Acting Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, calling on the Trump administration to enforce existing law and investigate 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 US by large chocolate companies. These companies, including Hershey, Mars and Nestlé, originally agreed to eradicate child labour from their supply chains in West Africa by 2005.
The letter was sent by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). In it, they said, “The global cocoa trade is significant, and the US is a large importer of cocoa products. In 2018 alone, the US imported US$608 million of cocoa beans from Côte d’Ivoire, in addition to US$100 million of cocoa paste.
“Given the prevalence of forced child labour in Côte d’Ivoire 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 US took more aggressive action to combat forced child labour in the cocoa sector and to fully enforce Section 1307 as Congress intended.”
More than 20 years ago, the Department of Labor (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.
Companies committed to eradicating child labour from cocoa production in West African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, by 2005. 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 to block cocoa imports made with forced labour and, where appropriate, pursue criminal investigations.
In 2015, Wyden and Brown secured an amendment to a trade package that closed a loophole that previously allowed the US to import products produced with forced labour, including forced child labour, if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand.
A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE.