Top Cocoa Grower Raids Cocoa Farms as New EU Legislation Looms

Authorities in Ivory Coast rescued 68 children during a two-day swoop on farms in the heart of the country’s cocoa belt as the world’s top producer of the key chocolate ingredient prepares for stricter European sustainability laws set to be introduced later this year.

Police also arrested 24 others during the raid on May 6 and 7 in the southwestern town of Soubre, prosecutor Alexandre Kone said on Friday. The operation was funded by the National Committee for the Monitoring of Actions to Combat Child Trafficking, Exploitation and Labor, which is led by First Lady Dominique Ouattara.

“We have zero tolerance for child labor; children need to be raised in an adequate environment,” Kone said.

The EU is the leading destination for Ivorian beans, accounting for 67% of the country’s cocoa exports, with its consumers becoming increasingly conscious of where and how products are sourced. The proposed sustainable cocoa laws aim to protect forests, curb child labor and end farmer poverty.

A recent survey of cocoa-growing communities carried out by regulator Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao found that 961,002 children under 18 were living in cocoa communities. Among those of school-going age, 71% were enrolled in education.

Cocoa-producing nations in West Africa have come under increased pressure to clean up the industry, with a report last year sponsored by the U.S. government showing that despite chocolate companies pledging to cut child labor, the problem actually got worse in the 10 years prior to the publication of the report.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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