Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) leads the world in production and export of the cocoa beans used in the manufacture of chocolate,[1] as of 2012, supplying 38% of cocoa produced in the world. West Africa collectively supplies two thirds of the world's cocoa crop, with Ivory Coast leading production at 1.8 million tonnes as of 2017, and nearby Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Togo producing additional 1.55 million tonnes.[2][3][4] Ivory Coast overtook Ghana as the world's leading producer of cocoa beans in 1978, and today is highly dependent on the crop, which accounts for 40% of national export income.[5][6] The primary non-African competitor of Ivory Coast is Indonesia, which went from having almost nonexistent domestic cocoa industry in the 1970s to becoming one of the largest producers in the market by the early 2000s. According to the UN FAO, Indonesia overtook Ghana and became the second-largest producer worldwide in 2006.[2] (World Cocoa Foundation provides significantly lower figures for Indonesia, but concurs that it is the largest producer of cocoa beans outside West Africa.[7]) Large chocolate producers such as Cadbury, Hershey's, and Nestle buy Ivorian cocoa futures and options through Euronext whereby world prices are set.[4]

Ivory Coast and other West African cocoa producing nations have come under severe criticism in the west for using child slave labor to produce the cocoa purchased by Western chocolate companies. The bulk of the criticism has been directed towards practices in Ivory Coast. The report "A Taste of Slavery: How Your Chocolate May be Tainted"[12][13][14] claims that traffickers promise paid work, housing, and education to children who are then forced to labour and undergo severe abuse, that some children are held forcibly on farms and work up to 100 hours per week, and that attempted escapees are beaten.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18] A BBC article claimed that 15,000 children from Mali, some under age 11, were working as slaves in cocoa production in Ivory Coast, and Mali's Save the Children Fund director described "young children carrying 6kg of cocoa sacks so heavy that they have wounds all over their shoulders."[19] In 2001 Chocolate Manufacturers Association acknowledged that slaves harvested some cocoa.[17] In 2013, the U.S. DOL's report Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Côte d'Ivoire stated that 39.8% of children aged 5 to 14 are working children and that they "are engaged in the worst forms of child labor in agriculture, particularly on cocoa farms, sometimes under conditions of forced labor."[20] In December 2014, the DOL's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor mentioned Ivory Coast among the countries where instances of such working conditions (both child labor and forced labor) are still observed.

A major study of the issue in 2016, published in Fortune in the U.S., concluded that approximately 2.1 million children in various countries of West Africa "still do the dangerous and physically taxing work of harvesting cocoa". The report was doubtful as to whether the situation can be improved.

"According to the 2015 edition of the Cocoa Barometer, a biennial report examining the economics of cocoa that’s published by a consortium of nonprofits, the average farmer in Ghana in the 2013–14 growing season made just 84¢ per day, and farmers in Ivory Coast a mere 50¢. That puts them well below the World Bank’s new $1.90 per day standard for extreme poverty, even if you factor in the 13% rise in the price of cocoa last year. And in that context the challenge of eradicating child labor feels immense, and the chocolate companies’ newfound commitment to expanding the investments in cocoa communities not quite sufficient. ... 'Best-case scenario, we’re only doing 10% of what’s needed.' Getting that other 90% won’t be easy. 'It’s such a colossal issue,' says Sona Ebai, the former secretary general of the Alliance of Cocoa Producing Countries. 'I think child labor cannot be just the responsibility of industry to solve. I think it’s the proverbial all-hands-on-deck: government, civil society, the private sector. And there, you really need leadership.'"[21]

In April 2018, the Cocoa Barometer 2018 report on the $100-billion industry, said this about the child labor situation in West Africa: "Not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching the sectorwide objective of the elimination of child labour, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020". A report later that year by New Food Economy stated that the Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems implemented by the International Cocoa Initiative and its partners has been useful, but "they are currently reaching less than 20 percent of the over two million children impacted".[22][23]

Impacts on Environment