According to Off, bitterness describes the producers while sweetness describes the users especially the companies that make billions from it. In this case, production of Cocoa exposes a dark history of exploitation. Bitterness is exposed of an industry that leads to institutionalization of misery to the people (Off, 75). Off exposes several forms of exploitation faced by the producers of Cocoa. Some of these exploitations include: corruption, civil war, child labor as well as forced labor. Indeed, children involved in peaking beans do not even know how it tastes. In these plantations, farmers are turned into a pool of cheap labor.
Essentially, exploitation of laborers in the farms has been the order of the day since the sixteenth century when production of Cocoa begun. For example in 2005, Cocoa farms were characterized by the worst forms of child labor. On the same, producers do not care about the welfare of famers or even hold any ethics when dealing with their employees. Notably, child-trafficking is a common occurrence. Despite the fact that organizations have been created to deal with the issue of exploitation of farmers in the areas, they have failed to alleviate farmers of their condition.
In this case, Off establishes some of the fascinating as well as horrifying tales behind the production of chocolate presently and in the past. He reveals evils such as child slaves, kidnapping, and murders among others (Off, 56). There issues are facing Ivory Coast despite its popularity in production of cocoa. The farmers are only able to get income to feed their family. The exposure of this book compels one to think when buying chocolate due to the stories associated with it. Forced labor in the farms has become adamant due to the low prices of cocoa offered by the manufacturers. Thus, the only way to end forced labor is to increase the price of Cocoa something that has proved hard to implement. On the contrary, Cocoa industries have been making massive profits. Off states, “Fairness or its grown-up sibling, justice, demanded a better deal for the people who produced the raw arterial for luxuries like chocolate. But they were ignored or vanquished by powers greater than their moral rectitude. They were up against elites and the ethical insensitivity of the marketplace” (Off, 120).
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In Cote D Ivoire, Cocoa is produced in the impoverished areas. This signifies the form of life of its producers. Despite the hard work involved in harvesting and processing of Cocoa, farmers do not enjoy their sweat. Instead of supporting laborers in these areas, the government has imposed tax. Collection of tax in these areas is worsened by bribery. Those who are not in a position to pay the tax are exposed to modern day slavery. This involves working for long hours without payment as well as taking their children and forcing them to work. Off does a comparison between children in America and those in Africa. He states that, “It’s the measure of a vast gulf between the children who eat chocolate on their way to school in North America and those in Africa who must, from childhood, work to survive; between the hand that picks the bean and the hand that unwraps the candy bar” (Off, 16) . For years, consumption of chocolate has been relied on the famers who are exploited in order to produce the much needed product. Therefore, at least from ninetieth century, chocolate consumers have been aware that slave labor is used to produce the commodity. However, little effort has been done to stop the vice. Effort has been done to establish small industries that have ended up being absorbed by the multinationals.
On the other hand, Cocoa production forms multi-billion dollar industry, its producers do not benefit in any form. Ironically, farmers working in these plantations live in misery as it serves the pleasures of their masters. Essentially, the major dominant of mass cocoa production were Cadbury in United Kingdom and Hersey in United States (Off, 26). These companies were family owned. They earned great profits at the cost of the farmers. Surprisingly, as the industry continues to make huge profits, its population continues to die of hunger. Carol Off states that, “In later years, colonial territories were ravaged and slaves imported in droves as native populations died out under the strain of feeding the world's appetite for chocolate” (Off, 96). The writer observes that despite the fact that Western countries have their own sovereign governments; high level of unethical practices continues to exist. Farmers do not benefit from their hard work.
At the beginning of Cocoa mass production, Quakers were the major dominants in Cocoa production in both United Kingdom and United States. The families that owned the company initially professed a religious approach and intended to maintain religious and moral standards in dealing with the farmers especially in West Africa. Despite their determination to hold religious principles, they ended up using slave labor in the plantations. However, their effort to continue using forced labor was cut short by Henry Navision who reported on how farmers were subjected to exploitation. Nevertheless, their action to stop slave labor took a long period of time before it could be executed. Thus, this problem is deeply rooted among the companies involved in production of this precious commodity.
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To many, the problem of Chocolate was associated with slave trade and colonialism in West Africa. It is hard to believe that slave labor is still being practiced in this age. To most of us it is like a shadow. Essentially, the country had done nothing to create awareness as well as enact legislative policies to ensure that famers are not exploited by the cartels and companies established in the area. To their utter surprise, the problem turned up with the new millennium and is still being practiced in the cocoa producing areas. Off puts into spotlights the form of exploitation that farmers in these areas go through (Off, 230). Efforts to restore moral order in the Cocoa production zones have been reverted. The major hindrance is lack of justice and fairness as producers have the desire to produce chocolate for low price and make enormous profit. Cocoa industry is generally based and supported by injustice. Off states, “cocoa industry is based on injustice, yet no consumer action has been taken despite the continued exploitation” (Off, 63). She argues that the only solution to this problem is to establish institution that will see that farmers are rewarded in proportion to t heir effort.
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In my opinion, Cocoa production has more negative effects to the farmers than the benefits being realized by the companies. In any case, public should be protected from any form of exploitation especially at this era. Unfortunately, public awareness and activism has not been achieved to educate farmers on their rights. Off depicts a situation where Western African governments and corporations are complex in a way that they are not in a position to regulate production of cocoa. As a result, unethical practices continue to threaten the life of people in the area (Off, 300). International community does not either care about the conditions of the people in the area. The major concern of industries is to fulfill the world’s appetite for chocolate. Thus, they continue with their activities of exploiting the poor in the name of producing more cocoa. The life of the people in these areas gets hard day by day.
Cocoa production has been associated with exploitation of farmers over centuries. Although the industries make huge profits, farmers involved in its production do not benefit. Their life continues to get miserable day by day. Nevertheless, Cocoa brands have generated large consumer trend while the farmers in the West Africa continues to languish in poverty.
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