Chocolate giant Mars ‘using cocoa harvested by children as young as five’

This is despite the children being listed as attending school.

Chocolate giant Mars ‘using cocoa harvested by children as young as five’
In the blistering heat, CBS News found children in Ghana as young as 5 years old using machetes nearly as big as themselves to harvest the cocoa beans that end up in some of America's most-loved chocolates. Our team traveled across Ghana's remote cocoa belt to visit small subsistence farms that supply the U.S. chocolate giant Mars, which produces candies including M&Ms and Snickers. We found children working at each one of the farms ? despite the company's vow to have systems in place to eradicate child labor in its supply chain by 2025.
Children in Ghana as young as 5 years old using machetes nearly as big as themselves to harvest the cocoa beans (Picture: CBS)

Chocolate company Mars has been found to be using cocoa beans harvested by children in Ghana, a report has been found.

Children as young as five were revealed to be working on farms which supply the confectionary giant.

This is despite the company’s pledge to protect children in its supply children.

Footage captured by CBS News shows youngsters carrying machetes into the fields and using them to hack open cocoa pods.

One child nearly takes off his finger using the sharp tool.

Mars say they have a monitoring system to keep children in schools, but copies of the list found many of the children were instead working.

Munira, 15, is listed as being in school but is working in the fields.

She said she was visited by supervisors last year who gave her backpack and school books with the phrase, ‘I am a child, I play, I go to school’.

In the blistering heat, CBS News found children in Ghana as young as 5 years old using machetes nearly as big as themselves to harvest the cocoa beans that end up in some of America's most-loved chocolates. Our team traveled across Ghana's remote cocoa belt to visit small subsistence farms that supply the U.S. chocolate giant Mars, which produces candies including M&Ms and Snickers. We found children working at each one of the farms ? despite the company's vow to have systems in place to eradicate child labor in its supply chain by 2025.
Children who were listed as being in school were found to be working on the farms (Picture: CBS)

‘I feel sad. I want to be, like, a medical doctor, but my family doesn’t have money for school,’ said Munira.

She said her family were only able to harvest one 140 pound bag of quality cocoa – earning them just $115.

One field supervisor admitted to ‘making up lists’.

He added: ‘I can say on authority that almost every data, almost every data is cooked.’

Reporters spoke with other children named on the list, and all of them said they do not attend school.

No one has checked to see if they were in school.

Some names on the list were also completely made up, after they visited a farm where a child was listed as the farmer’s daughter, but does not exist.

The few who do attend classes also carry machetes around so they can work in the fields before and after school hours.

According to Mars’ Protecting Children Action Plan, they support farmers by providing livable wages.

‘Mars supports the Living Income Differential of $400 per metric ton announced by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in July 2019 to ensure that farmers receive a higher income.

‘The governments have also indicated that, from the 2020/2021 main crops, 70% of a $2,600 per metric ton minimum price will be paid to farmers for their cocoa.’ 

In a statement to CBS in response to the report, a Mars spokesman said: ‘Our cocoa suppliers in Ghana have agreed to adhere to our robust Supplier Code of Conduct and we have also been clear that they must have a Child Labor and Remediation System (CLMRS) in place by 2025 that complies with the industry leading International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) standard.  

‘Over 65 percent of our cocoa supply in West Africa is already covered by CLMRS which is implemented by our suppliers on the ground, with audits conducted by certification bodies as part of Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certification requirements.’

The company added: ‘Mars unequivocally condemns the use of child labor. We are also transparent in saying that we know that more needs to be done and we continue to work diligently with parties across the cocoa sector to further help advance respect for human rights in the cocoa supply chain.’

Metro has gone to Mars for comment.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.