Bitter Sweet Chocolate

Bitter Sweet Chocolate

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

Worldwide we consumed 7.3 million metric tons of chocolate in 2023. It is truely a world wide favourite!


                     Image: BBC News: 'The Secret of Why We Like to Eat Chocolate'

The cocoa farmers, however, are not sharing in the joy.

The world bank set a new poverty line in 2022. They raised the extreme poverty line in earnings to $2.15 US dollars or less/day. In 2016, when the poverty line was set at US $1.90/ day, a study published in Fortune magazine noted that "the average farmer in Ghana in the 2013–14 growing season made just 84¢ per day, and farmers in Ivory Coast a mere 50¢.  

Most Cocoa Farmers live below the poverty line, earning below $2.00 per day. In contrast, the chocolate industry earned more than 68 Billion in 2016 alone."

Where you have families and communities in desperate poverty, and relying on their children’s income to survive, combined with an industry, that due to such low income, needs cheap labour to survive, you will have children working long hours in hard manual labour.

The chocolate manufacturers have it within their financial power to ensure that they pay the Cocoa Farmers a living wage.

In 2001 the major chocolate producers signed an agreement called the “Harkin-Engel Protocol” stating that the use of “the worst forms” of child labour in cocoa production were unacceptable, and giving assurances that they would work to eradicate child labour and poverty from their supply chains. .

In 2023 - 2024 discussing the efforts to address this issue, former secretary general of the Alliance of Cocoa Producing Countries, Sona Ebai, commented "Best-case scenario, we're only doing 10% of what's needed."

There has been so little real action taken to achieve change, and the majority of chocolate companies have not put in place audited processes or standards to ensure that they conform to the demands of this document. Surveys show that in real terms the number of children working in Cocoa Farms in these two nations has increased since the signing of the protocol. Nestle published in 2016 that they could not ensure that there was no child or slave labour in their chocolate. 

Chocolate companies have also been called upon to financially contribute to the rescue of children trafficked into the Cocoa Industry but have yet to work towards this in any meaningful way.

There are 10 global chocolate companies that dominate the industry, owning most of the chocolate brands that we enjoy eating today. (this is based on an article published in 2021)  

  1. The Orion Confectionary Company, with annual sales of US $1.8 billion 
  2. The Glico Group, based in Japan, with an annual sales of US $3.2 Billion Dollars 
  3. Pladis, based in London, reports annual sales of US $4.5 billion,
  4. Lindt and Springli AG, post an annual profit of US 4.6 billion in
  5. Nestle with sales of US $7.9 billion 
  6. The Hersey Company with sales of US $8.2 billion
  7. The Meiji Company with annual sales of US $ 9.7 billion
  8. The Mondelez iInternational Company (owner of Cadbury) US $12 billion
  9. The Ferraro Group with an annual income of US $ 13 billion
  10. The Mars Group with an annual income of US $18 billion

Many of these big Chocolate makers have policy statements about payment of 'decent wages' and 'Sustainability' and 'Verified' in their Corporate Governance statements, however there is little detailed information or support for statements made, little evidence for progress made towards their goals, and no external auditing that I was able to find in support of their claims. Nestle has been accused in a US court twice, once in 2003, and again in 2016 for using cocoa in their chocolate that was grown on farms in Ivory Coast where child labour was well known to be in use. They have been publicly criticised for not carrying out proper checks.

“A company that lacks knowledge of its cocoa’s origin cannot genuinely ensure it is not tainted by extreme poverty, child labor, deforestation, or other abuses. Put simply if you can’t see it, you can’t fix it.”

Associate Professor Perkiss ( 'The Annual Chocolate Scorecard'.  University of Wollongong NSW)


“One of the recent developments in the global chocolate and cocoa market is the growing awareness of Fair Trade certified products. Such chocolate products are made from cocoa produced from farms that do not indulge in inhuman practices such as slavery and child labour. The Fair-Trade organisations have been dedicated to the promotion of trade relationships that support liveable incomes for farmers, labourers and families of cocoa growers through a commitment to prices that produce a stable economic and social environment.” As well, there is an absolute minimum price paid to Cocoa Growers for their product, ensuring their income is dependable and adequate. In Fair Trade certified cocoa farms these processes are externally audited by unaffiliated professional auditors, on regular timeframes, and publicly reported. 

In 2003 a TV and Documentary producer called Tuen Van der Keuken (Phew!) made a documentary about the use of child and slave labour in cocoa growing, and discovered, to his absolute horror, that the majority of chocolate produced at the time had links to slave labour. This amazing man tried for three years to bring attention to the abuses within the industry, and failed. He then decided to start producing his own chocolate. He sold 20,000 bars in the first two days. The company is called Tony's Chocoloney, and is now owned by Henk Van Beltman who has expanded the company to include the world, and even us in Australia! And it is really, really Good chocolate! 

After some supply chain slips of their own, Tony's have, in 2022, been awarded the Thomson Reuters Foundation  the Stop Slavery Award in the category "Goods and Services Companies". This award recognises companies and organisations who have set a high standard for eradicating slavery, illegal child labor, and human trafficking from their supply chains.

As well, Tony's Chocolonely was ranked second on the 2023 Chocolate Scorecard, which rates chocolate companies according to their human rights and environmental credentials: traceability and transparency, living income for cocoa farmers, absence of child labour, deforestation & climate, agroforestry, and agrochemical management.

 This is where you come in! When you are aware of all the joy or pain that cocoa can bring, what does it matter if you pay a few extra dollars? When you buy Fair it just brings so much more joyfulness! Tastes so much better too! Better for Everyone. 



  • :   (This is a short film made by a Danish Filmmaker about the use of Children in Cocoa Plantations in West Africa but be careful, it gave me nightmares.)
  • Sustainable Cocoa Farming in Cote' d'Ivoire: UN Deputy Chief notes significant progress and calls for greater international support. Read here
  • FOOD; Top 10 largest chocolate companies (2021) Read here
  • Global Citizen: What to Know About the Child labour lawsuit Against Nestle, and what the global implications could be. Read here
  • Wikipedia: The Controversies of Nestle. Read here
  • Wikipedia: Tony's Chocoloney Read here
Meet the supplier Products

← Older Post

Leave a comment

Be Inspired Blog

International Women's Day Love | Kenana Knitters

International Women's Day Love | Kenana Knitters

By Rebecca S

At The Fair Trader, investing in women and girls and working to alleviate poverty are two big goals as a Fair Trade business. These two goals...

Read more
Mother's Day Gifts of Love | Gather and Harvest

Mother's Day Gifts of Love | Gather and Harvest

Bronwyn Newnham
By Bronwyn Newnham

At The Fair Trader most of our products are made by women, and give women makers a safe, fair and enabling wage for her work. These are the...

Read more