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Easter Bummer For M&M

April 14, 2002 · 

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Rights Group Pressure M&M On Fair Trade Cocoa New York — Non-profit organisation Global Exchange recently planned a campaign intended to pressure privately held chocolate manufacturer M&M/Mars to use so-called “fair trade certified” cocoa beans.

Declaring that cocoa farmers in West African states receive inadequate pay for their crop and that slave labourers are used to pick and process the beans, Global Exchange said it is attempting to put a stop to those practices.

The group began targeting chocolate manufacturers for unfair trade practices late last year, but this is the first time it will aim its efforts directly at M&M.

The group is focusing on the chocolate industry as a whole, but picking out different companies at each holiday. While not accusing M&M directly of slave trade, the group is demanding that the chocolate-maker take more of a leadership role in demanding only cocoa beans that carry a certificate of fair trade from its West African suppliers.

“Organisations involved in promoting fair trade, we share their interest in improving the economic conditions of cocoa farmers,” said Michelle Weese, spokeswoman for M&M/Mars.

“Any kind of child-trafficking or abusive labour practices in growing cocoa are simply unacceptable to us. We strongly condemn these practices wherever they occur,” she added.

On December 1, the world’s top chocolate makers and cocoa merchants announced that they had joined leading anti-slavery and other groups in signing a statement against child labour abuses in the production of West African cocoa. The joint statement is the third in a seven-step industry protocol developed last September that is scheduled to be completed by July 2005.

“We are working with the industry and we have undertaken a global effort to put together a comprehensive protocol that lays out a timetable to determine the extent of the problem and to establish a system that ensures that cocoa’s grown without abusive child labour or forced labour practices,” she said.

The industry has also set up a Broad Consultative Group to advise in suggesting remedies for the elimination of the worst forms of child and forced labour in the growing and processing of cocoa beans.

Global Exchange proposes that chocolate manufacturers start immediately by importing 5% of their cocoa supply using fair trade certified beans, and ramp up gradually to 100% to send a strong message to slave traders in Africa.

Global Exchange’s campaign coincide with Easter weekend, one of the top chocolate sales weeks of the year.
(Global Exchange Release)

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