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Voice of Cocoa

Ivory Coast First Lady Confers with U.S. Senators Over Cocoa Embargo Threat

Ivory Coast’s first lady Dominique Ouattara met a delegation of U.S. senators on Monday to appeal their call for an embargo on Ivorian cocoa over the alleged use of child labour.

In July, Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon urged the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency to block the import of cocoa made with forced labour, citing a Washington Post investigation that indicated the sector in Ivory Coast still relied on indentured child labour.

“The Washington Post article was true but it is something that is not common. This is an isolated case because in the other plantations there are no children,” said Ouattara during the meeting in her office in Abidjan.

“I think it would punish an entire country and farmers, who are struggling to survive and would be unfair to the work we are doing,” she said, referring to the embargo.

Outtara heads a national committee seeking to eliminate child labour in cocoa.

According to a number of non-governmental organisations, thousands of children between the ages of seven and thirteen work in inhumane conditions at some cocoa plantations in top-grower Ivory Coast.

An embargo on Ivorian cocoa exports to the United States would have serious consequences for the Ivorian economy. Cocoa accounts for 40% of exports and the United States is the third largest destination for Ivorian beans after Belgium and the Netherlands.

The United States last year imported over $700 million of cocoa beans and paste from Ivory Coast.

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