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FGC Position On Sunday Programme Segment "Chocolate: The Bitter Truth"

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Katherine Rich
Katherine Rich

TVNZ's Sunday programme's airing of British Panorama documentary "Chocolate: the Bitter Truth" highlighted the well-known concern about illegal child labour in West Africa, but sadly did not reveal anything new or give sufficient credit to the positive actions being undertaken by food companies, NGOs and charitable groups to eliminate the problem in West Africa, says NZ Food & Grocery Council Chief Executive, Katherine Rich.

"Kiwi viewers were no doubt horrified at the thought of children being trafficked by family members to work on cocoa farms in West Africa. It is this same deep concern which has sparked major initiatives from chocolate makers, Governments, NGOs, and charitable organisations over the last few decades to work towards eradicating the worst forms of child labour."

"The use of illegal child labour is abhorrent and every country must continue to work towards its total elimination."

"The documentary reminds everyone that there is more work to be done, but it's a shame it gave little credit to those involved for the significant progress in changing practices in West Africa and reducing the use of illegal child labour there, particularly over the last decade."

Mrs Rich says that massive investments continue to be made by food companies operating in West Africa to educate cocoa farmers, establish schools and scholarships, trace cocoa supply chains, and to communicate with suppliers that traditional practices of utilising child labour are unacceptable.

Working towards the elimination of these illegal practices is the very reason projects such as the International Cocoa Initiative and many others have been established by chocolate makers, Government agencies, NGOs, and charitable groups working together, says Mrs Rich.

"There needs to be some understanding of the complexity of the entrenched problem within a West African context. There are over two million small family cocoa farms, many in remote rural areas. Poverty is at a level that most New Zealanders can't imagine."

"Despite best efforts it is impossible to guarantee 100% that illegal child labour will never occur in the remote growing regions of these 3rd world countries. The fact that some cases still occur does not mean that we should reject the supply chain systems in place, which work hard to stamp out illegal child labour."

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