U.S. CBP has asked cocoa traders to report child labor in their supply chains in the top grower Cote d’Ivoire.
According to Reuters, the U.S. customs authority has asked cocoa traders always to report when and where they encounter child labor in their supply chains.
Cocoa traders and chocolate companies, like Mars, Hershey, Cargill and Barry Callebaut, have often missed internationally agreed targets to minimize the worst forms of child labor from supply lines in West Africa, all sides have acknowledged.
As stated by a CBP spokesperson who told Reuters, CBP has “collaborated with the cocoa industry to trace cocoa supply chains and understand industry internal controls and compliance regimes.”
According to Reuters, the CBP inquiry comes in the form of a 25-part questionnaire and a request for documents. It was sent this month to well-known companies, including Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Olam, Sucden, and Ecom.
Reuters could not tell what CBP plans to do with the information it gathers. Still, according to Reuters, the CBP has the authority to block imports when information indicates they have been made with forced labor.
Even a small blockage could cause high costs on suppliers, increase the price of chocolate and, disable the Cote d’Ivoire exports, which rely completely on U.S. buyers.
“We believe that a U.S. ban on cocoa imports from (Cote d’Ivoire) will hurt, not help,” said Richard Scobey, head of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), an industry group. “It could push millions of poor farmers into more poverty, even though the vast majority of them are innocent of such practices.-he added.”
According to a report published in 2018 by international civil society groups, about 2.1 million children work in cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, the world’s No. 2 producer. The International Labour Organization’s definition of child labor includes only children forced to work by someone outside their families.
Last year, CBP blocked gold from artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and diamonds from the Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe that is suspected of using forced labor.