[Stop-traffic] News/Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast says UK TV slave program ``nonsense''

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast says UK TV slave program ``nonsense''
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sun Oct 15 2000 - 20:38:06 EDT

            Ivory Coast says UK TV slave program ``nonsense''

RTna 9/29/00 5:44 PM

  Reuters Ltd.

     By Sharman Esarey
      LONDON (Reuters) - Ivory Coast Friday called a British television
documentary alleging widespread child slavery on its farms "wildly
inaccurate" and said anyone familiar with the world's top cocoa producer
would know it was nonsense.
      Britain's Channel 4 TV aired a program Thursday that included the
assertion that 90 percent of cocoa farms use slave labor.
      The report is "wildly inaccurate, unsubstantiated and damaging to the
people of Cote d'Ivoire," Kouadio Adjoumani, Ivory Coast's ambassador to
the United Kingdom, said in a statement.
      "However, the absurdity of the claim that 90 percent of farms use
slave labor is shown up by the simple fact that this would mean that nearly
every one of the 700,000 farmers employs slaves, patently nonsense as
anyone with any knowledge of our country would know."
      Ivorian cocoa producers and international cocoa traders said the
documentary, which was widely previewed by news media, exaggerated how West
African children have been lured into a life of slavery.
      Authorities in Ivory Coast and Mali admit there is a child labor
problem, but say they are tackling it.
      Cocoa producers say that figures available from official and
independent sources suggest the documentary has overstated the extent of
the problem.
      The UK Biscuit, Cake Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance said
Thursday that they would check for such "abhorrent practices" on their
regular visits and would insist upon action and prevention should any
slavery be revealed.
      But they added that neither they nor their members had ever seen or
heard of such practices.
      Ivory Coast and Mali signed an agreement on Sept. 1 in Bouake, Ivory
Coast's second city, aimed at halting trafficking in child labor -- the
first pact of its kind in Africa.
      But the ambassador said the 90 percent figure, made in an interview in
the show, was not checked with the government or UNICEF, and was based on
visits to 12 cocoa farms out of a total of more than 700,000 in the country
and meetings with no more than 20 of some 3 million workers.
      "Moreover all the farms visited were in a region where Mali immigrants
are concentrated and own farms. Some of these farmers have brought in young
workers from their own country.
      "The government is aware that some of these young men have not been
properly paid and are taking action to deal with the matter," the
ambassador said.
      The uproar surrounding the Channel 4 documentary had little impact on
cocoa prices, which were languishing just off eight year lows in London and
near 27-year lows in New York.
      Farmers burned small amounts of crop last year to boost
below-subsistence level prices.
      They have argued that rock-bottom world cocoa prices mean that they
cannot pay their workers well.

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