In the run up to Easter, Panorama sent Paul Kenyon to discover exactly where the chocolate we consume by the truckloads per day begins its life.
And it made for emotive viewing as it chronicled the bleak and often desperate lives of children as young as 7 years old who, wielding machetes, spend their long, laborious days cutting down cocoa pods.
That’s where most of the chocolate we buy begins its life of course, and though child labour is no big secret in West Africa, what did surprise me is that being PC and buying confectionery labelled ‘Fairtrade’ doesn’t necessarily mean that what amounts to slave labour wasn’t used in its production.
Nor does it ensure that your daily treat wasn’t as a direct result of child trafficking.
But to be fair, as Kenyon found out last night, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’ll take a long while to weed out the unscrupulous who supply cocoa for Fairtrade products. This is primarily because there are so many links in the chain of supply, it’s no mean feat to keep inventory of it all the way back to its origins.
Kenyon met with many children who were working on the plantations, and we heard that the majority of them came from the hideous poverty of Burkina Faso. They were either smuggled out by their families, who were well intentioned, or sold by less altruistic family members.
One child, 12-year-old Fatao, who was working in Ghana, had been sold by his uncle to a farmer there. It was a very touching and poignant moment when Kenyon reunited Fatao with his mother. Sadly, there are few similarly happy endings for most of Ghana’s child workforce.
However, as wonderful a moment as that was, I felt the episode rather deviated from its remit by including those scenes. After all, the Panorama team were there to relay factual information, not play Cilla Black.
In fact, the whole episode felt rather like it was going off at tangents rather than remaining fully focused on what it was there to do, but arguably, the reuniting of Fatao with his mother added gravitas to the very human stories that are behind faceless multi-billion corporations.
So will this edition of Panorama make me more likely to think about what I’m buying in future? Yes it will. And can I therefore trust that when I pay more for Fairtrade products, that child labour wasn’t involved anywhere in the chain? Well, no, but it’s a big, big step in the right direction.