Brazil court fines Cargill in case involving child labor on cocoa farms

SAO PAULO — Commodities trader Cargill has been ordered by a Brazilian court to pay 600,000 reais ($120,185) as indemnity for buying cocoa from farms where child labor or forced work has been identified.

US-based Cargill said on Tuesday it disagreed with the complaints and fine and would appeal the ruling to a higher court.

According to a decision dated Sept. 18, seen by Reuters, from the 39th Labor Court in the northeastern state of Bahia, Cargill was also ordered to add to its contracts with Brazilian cocoa suppliers clauses to end the commercial relationship if child labor or other unlawful working conditions occur.

The lawsuit was brought against the commodities company by local labor prosecutors.

The court also requires Cargill to start a “due diligence” process to verify whether there is child labor in its supply chain and launch a campaign to combat the practice, according to the ruling.

In a statement, Cargill said it could not comment on details of the case because it is subject to legal confidentiality.

However, it said it “does not tolerate” human trafficking, forced or child labor in its operations or supply chain and suspends suppliers if any violation is found.

In the lawsuit, the company said that it buys cocoa from hundreds of producers, co-ops and merchants in the country and has no way of knowing whether child labor was used in any stage of that chain.

The court’s decision was first reported by local news outlet Reporter Brasil.

Similar lawsuits have appeared in other countries aiming to make food companies liable for cases of child labor.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., last year dismissed a lawsuit by eight citizens of Mali who sought to hold Hershey Co., Nestle, Cargill and others liable for child slavery on Ivory Coast cocoa farms. — Reuters

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