How much more would a consumer need to pay for a chocolate bar produced without the use of child labor?
It turns out, it’s only an increase of a few cents.
A new study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that increasing the price of cocoa by a mere 2.8% would provide farmers with enough income to hire qualified adult workers, instead of relying on children.
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The cocoa industry in West Africa is notorious for its use of subjecting children to dangerous labor, spraying chemicals and wielding machetes to break open cocoa pods. The US Department of Labor estimates that some 2 million children in Ghana and the Ivory Coast work in the cocoa industry.
But the problem is complicated and driven by poverty. “There’s no black and white situation,” said Matthias Lange, the director of policies and programs at the International Cocoa Initiative. We aren’t talking about “kids in chains.”
Popular Science reports:
Jeff Luckstead, an agriculture economist at the University of Arkansas, and his team wondered if price premiums were the best incentive for change. They wanted to find something that could keep kids out of the labor market without hurting the family farm’s income.
While West Africa’s labor issues have drawn substantial investment from international organizations, corporations and government, there was “not a lot of academic research.” His team constructed models to understand how increasing cocoa price could eliminate child labor without harming a family’s welfare.
“It’s nice to see that this is not that expensive,” says Luckstead. A 2.8 percent increase would elevate the price of a Hershey’s bar from $1.79 to $1.84, cocoa powder from $3.19 to $3.27. For consumer goods, it seems more than feasible. But Lange says it’s important to remember that chocolate and cocoa is a $100 billion industry, and $2.8 billion more dollars is a lot of money.
The danger of this assumption is that buyers of cocoa could simply switch to purchasing from other places if they didn’t want to hike the price of cocoa.
However, Luckstead says he hopes companies will see the opportunity to sell as good business opportunity. He and his colleagues will conduct follow-up study to see how willing consumers would be to pay more.
Akin to fair trade coffee, consumers might be willing to spend a bit more to ensure their chocolate is not made using child labor.
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