Despite the European Parliament giving its approval to the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement and passing a resolution on child labor in the cocoa sector in March, criticisms have come from VOICE, the European network of NGOs in the cocoa sector, who wish to see legislation and minimum standards of compliance from manufacturers in the supply chain.

With fairtrade chocolate sales booming for major international brands as they switch to fair-trade cocoa for chocolate and other foods, Barry Callebaut, Ferrero and Hershey indicated that legislation alone cannot combat the issue, which has poverty and lack of education as its root cause and say they are taking steps to solve the problem.

Investing $US millions a year in child labor reduction programs and sustainable cocoa initiatives in West Africa are USA food giant Cargill (2010-13) and Hershey (from 2012) and Barry Callebaut, which has launched a CHF 40 million (Swiss Franc) sustainable cocoa, global initiative in key cocoa-producing countries in West and Central Africa and Indonesia over 10 years. The newly announced Global  Development  Alliance partnership will significantly add to this.

The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), the U.S. government's Feed the Future Initiative and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) have launched the WCF African Cocoa Initiative (WCF/ACI) in a ceremony co-hosted with the Ghana Cocoa Board and key African stakeholders, including regional government officials and NGO partners. This Global Development Alliance partnership, supported by Feed the Future through USAID, will improve cocoa farmer incomes, alleviate poverty, strengthen government and regional institutions, and advance food security in the cocoa-producing countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. Over the five-year term, the program will train 100,000 cocoa farmers and support their improved well-being and livelihoods.

Public sector support includes the four national governments of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. Private sector funding for this program comes from WCF member companies ADM Cocoa, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, Cargill, Continaf BV, Ferrero, Guittard Chocolate Company, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods, Lindt & Sprungli, Mars, Nestle, Noble Resources SA, and Olam International Ltd.

Barry Callebaut said in March that for fiscal year 2011/2012, the company will invest CHF 5 million in farmer training, infrastructure and community education and health programs. The company will focus first on large producer countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Cameroon and Brazil, and aims to expand the initiative, called Cocoa Horizons, to other cocoa producing countries with high development potential over the coming years.

“The scarcity of quality cocoa is a serious concern that touches the heart of our business – because without more cocoa, we can’t produce more chocolate. Innovative and comprehensive solutions are urgently needed to reverse the overall decline in global cocoa production. We’ve therefore made sustainable cocoa a pillar of our company’s ambitious growth strategy, and accelerated our longtime efforts to ensure sustainable cocoa production. Our newest initiative, ‘Cocoa Horizons’ is the most ambitious and far reaching sustainability program in Barry Callebaut’s history,” said CEO Juergen B. Steinemann.

In 2010, child labor became a major issue after it was exposed in a BBC television program “Chocolate: The Bitter Truth” and showed Fairtrade certified cocoa bean farmers and suppliers who were supplying multinational brands and UK retailers using child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.