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CHOCOLATE MAKER MELTS UNDER HEAT OF PEOPLE PRESSURE

cocoa farmers

cocoa farmers

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Mondelez International, the maker of Nabisco and Oreo cookies, Cadbury, Milka and Toblerone chocolates, among other high-caloric sweets, has agreed to address hunger, poverty and unequal pay among women cocoa farmers in West Africa. The firm conceded in response to a massive letter campaign organized by a rights group.

With headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., Mondelez International initially denied they were not meeting the goals to improve working conditions for women who, as reported by the rights group Oxfam, are paid less than men and suffer discrimination in access to training and materials.

“We are surprised that Oxfam does not acknowledge these investments in its report,” the company said initially.

But the UK-based Oxfam said the manufacturer was avoiding the issue and was instead “compiling a laundry list of well-known existing projects.”

Last month, Oxfam called on the top three chocolate manufacturers – Mondelez, Nestle and Mars – to conduct independent audits after finding women cocoa farmers were paid less than men, suffered degrading treatment from male supervisors, and were unable to obtain loans from banks and other creditors. In Nigeria, some cocoa farmers earn as little as $2 a day.

Thousands of Oxfam activists flooded the company with letters backing the demand.

This week’s announcement by Mondelez to launch an action plan by April 1, 2014, to improve working conditions in Ghana and Ivory Coast and to sign onto the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles by April 26, 2013, comes on top of commitments last month by Mars and Nestle to address these issues. The three companies together control 42 percent of the world chocolate market.

Mondelez employs about 100,000 people worldwide, with an annual revenue of approximately $36 billion and operations in more than 80 countries.

“Those chocolate companies that seek quality output but ignore the gender dimension of cocoa sourcing do so at their long-term peril,” wrote researcher Stephanie Barrientos, project coordinator of “Mapping Sustainable Production in Ghanaian Cocoa.”

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