Queensland chocolate factory a shining light in the industry

Posted by Isobel Drake on 30th July 2008

Worldwide cocoa production has been tainted by child slave labour over the course of the past decade, but an Australian company is now one of an increasing number worldwide who are looking to eradicate slave labour from the industry.

On a visit to Cocoa Australia’s cocoa plantation and processing centre at Mossman Central Mill last week, Opposition Spokesman for Northern Australia, Senator Ian Macdonald, indicated that this Australian first would help to reduce the use of child labour to produce cocoa in the Third World. “Currently around 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is produced using child slave labour. This innovative business right here in North Queensland – found to be the best cocoa growing area in Australia – will reduce the need to import cocoa from countries where these sort of abuses occur,” he said.

“It is also pleasing to see the traditional sugar mills of North Queensland diversifying into new industries. The organic chocolate produced by Cocoa Australia not only provides more jobs for locals at the Mossman Mill, but local cane farmers can also grow cocoa plants in un-used corners of their farms that would otherwise would lay fallow. This will be of particular help to canefarmers in times of low world sugar prices as a source of extra income,” Senator Macdonald added.

The Mill is also producing a new “low GI” sugar – another Australian first. “Again, the innovative nature of business in Northern Australia is being demonstrated here, and this is a great help to Australians trying to stay lean and healthy,” Senator Macdonald claimed. “Cocoa Australia’s operations are a great credit to them and efforts to curb child slave labour and replace it with chocolate produced under fair conditions. It is also a great boost to the local and Australian economies. I have no doubt it will continue to be yet another great North Queensland success story.”

Since the discovery of widespread child slave labour in cocoa production in the late 90s, major chocolate producers and manufacturers have made a commitment to eliminating such practices. The issue has been most prevalent in the Ivory Coast, where over 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans are produced, and slow and steady steps have been made in recent years.

The chocolate and cocoa industry is organising a sector-wide independently verified certification process and hope to have it fully in place across each country’s cocoa-growing sector by the end of 2010. The industry has also been working with the Ivory Coast and Ghanaian Governments to remedy the situation.