It’s almost that time of year when we'll be dressing our children—or in some cases ourselves—in our favourite superhero or villain outfits in the hopes of bringing home pillowcases full of candy. But as our cities get ready for the oncoming sugar rush, more and more people are learning about the brutal realities behind much of the chocolate that is being sold. While many of our children enjoy chocolate as a treat, for many people around the world chocolate represents a means of income—one that often leads to long and unsafe working conditions, and sometimes even child trafficking and forced child labour.
Our chocolate typically comes to us in a plastic wrapper and has gone through a long chain of production. What's unfortunate about this is that we don’t see the realities at the other end. The main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa, comes from a plant that is grown in the tropical regions of the world. In countries like the Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, chocolate contributes to a large part of the national economy. 67 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa where the Côte d'Ivoir alone holds 43 per cent of the world market. Within these economies, cocoa accounts for 33 per cent of Ghana’s total export earnings and 40 per cent of the Côte d'Ivoir.
Most of the cocoa production in these regions comes from small, family-run farms. These small operations don’t produce yields large enough to deal directly with world markets. Instead, they must deal with brokers. These middlemen are looking to get the best prices for their product and because producers are isolated and often misinformed about actual market prices, the monies they receive often don’t even cover the costs of production.