Miki Mistrati (@MrMistrati) is the award-winning director of three international documentaries exposing brutal trafficking and illegal child labor in the multi-billion dollar chocolate industry: The Chocolate War, The Shady Chocolate Business, and The Dark Side of Chocolate.
What We Discuss with Miki Mistrati:
- How human trafficking, child slavery, and inhumane treatment likely contribute to the production of your favorite chocolate products.
- Why, nearly two decades after pledging to eradicate child labor, major chocolate companies still cannot identify the farms where all their cocoa comes from, let alone if child labor was used in producing it.
- How the biggest chocolate companies wield their billions of dollars in profits to keep legislation that would hold them accountable at bay.
- What we, as consumers, can do to effectively censure these companies and help the people they exploit.
- How to ensure the chocolate we enjoy is ethically and sustainably sourced.
- And much more…
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Served hot or cold, as a liquid or solid, chocolate is a beloved treat consumed worldwide at a rate of about three million tons — to the tune of about $50 billion — per year, and the appetite for this delicacy continues to grow. If only it were as easily sourced as a dip in Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, this could be a heartwarming episode to share with you, our gentle listeners, just in time for the holidays.
Alas, if you’re a long-time listener, you’ve probably sensed a sinister twist lurking just around the corner — and we wish we could disappoint you just this once. On this episode, we’re joined by Miki Mistrati, the award-winning director of three international documentaries exposing brutal trafficking, illegal child labor, and inhumane conditions that keep this multi-billion dollar chocolate industry in business: The Chocolate War, The Shady Chocolate Business, and The Dark Side of Chocolate. Here, Miki details how cocoa continues to be harvested by child slaves on a massive scale in spite of decades-old promises by the biggest names in the industry to put a stop to the practice, who these big names are, ways we can hold these deep-pocketed behemoths accountable, what we can do to help the people being exploited, how we can ensure the chocolate we enjoy comes from ethically sourced alternatives.
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Miss the show we did with Vince Beiser — author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization? Make sure to check out episode 97: Vince Beiser | Why Sand Is More Important Than You Think It Is!
Thanks, Miki Mistrati!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Miki Mistrati | Twitter
- Miki Mistrati | Instagram
- Miki Mistrati | LinkedIn
- Miki Mistrati | IMDb
- Slave Free Chocolate
- Cadbury Exposed: Dispatches | All 4
- The Chocolate War (2022)
- The Shady Chocolate Business (2012)
- The Dark Side of Chocolate (2010)
- Cadbury Faces Fresh Accusations of Child Labour on Cocoa Farms in Ghana | The Guardian
- Mondelēz Extends Cocoa Life Program to 2030 | Candy Industry | Candy Industry
- ‘The Chocolate War’ Pits Human Rights Lawyer Against Corporate America | Variety
- EU Aims to Ban Products, Imports Made With Forced Labour | Reuters
- Supreme Court Says Chocolate Companies Cannot Be Sued Over Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms | The Washington Post
- Child Labor on the Rise in Cocoa Industry Despite Years of Company Promises to Stop It, Report Finds | The Washington Post
- Hershey, Nestle, and Mars Broke Their Pledges to End Child Labor in Chocolate Production | Washington Post
- Spencer Roberts | The Dirty Truth About Corporate Greenwashing | Jordan Harbinger
754: Miki Mistrati | The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Invesco for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Discover the possibilities at invesco.com/etfsolutions.
[00:00:08] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton This year Peloton is gifting you their best offer of the season. Get up to $300 off accessories when you purchase a Peloton Bike, Bike+, or Tread Shop from a variety of accessories such as cycling shoes, a heart rate monitor, and more. If you've been waiting for a sign to join Peloton, this offer provides you with everything you need to get started. You're more likely to stick to a fitness routine if it's something you enjoy, which is why Peloton instructors make every workout feel like hanging out with friends. And the music — iconic, whether it's a classic rock or R & B class, you'll find the perfect soundtrack for your workout on a Peloton Bike or Tread. And whether you have 10 minutes to spare for a strength class or 30 minutes for a running or cycling class, there's a workout for you. So don't miss out on Peloton's best offer of the season. Visit onepeloton.com to learn more. All-access membership separate offers starts November 14th and ends November 28th, cannot be combined with other offers. See additional terms at one Peloton dot.
[00:01:00] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:01:03] Miki Mistrati: Mondelēz owns Cadbury, which is a former British brand, a chocolate brand. Mondelēz is American based in Chicago. It's a huge chocolate manufacturer. And you know what? I went to the Cocoa Life plantations, the so-called sustainable sourced cocoa plantations. It was full of Ghanaian children working.
[00:01:37] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional four-star general, journalist-turned-poker champion, former cult member, undercover agent, or tech mogul. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:02:05] If you are new to the show — welcome — if you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, I really love it when you do that, our episodes starter packs are a great place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic. They'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on this show — topics like persuasion and influence, disinformation and cyber warfare, China, North Korea, crime, and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start, or you can search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:02:33] Today on the show, now, I've wanted to do an episode about chocolate for a long time now, not just because I enjoy eating chocolate, but because I know that any sort of commodity that us, folks here, living in the west love and have love for hundreds of years probably is just built on the backs of some really gross stuff. And I was not wrong. I knew something wasn't right. When I heard rumors of crazy low wages and brutal conditions on chocolate plantations, I looked into coffee as well, which should do a show on that, and I'd seen some stuff here and there on YouTube in the web, but no deep dives. I decided to reach out to somebody who's been investigating this, and so here we are with my friend, Miki Mistrati.
[00:03:08] He's an investigative journalist and documentarian and a consistent pain in the ass for chocolate companies worldwide because he's exposing not only inhumane working conditions but human trafficking and even child slavery and other gross stuff happening. Also, that we can hammer down a bunch of truffles on Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever. This is a really insightful episode. It's going to ruin chocolate for you, but we end with a few rays of sunshine. There are ways to get chocolate that does not involve this. I'll go into that and I just really think you're going to enjoy this peek inside the dark world of chocolate. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
[00:03:45] By the way, I was inspired by this episode to donate the money from the advertising from this episode along with some other cash to build a school in Ghana for kids, not only kids that have been trafficked but for a lot of kids that possibly have been trafficked into farm chocolate and just other kids in Ghana who can't go to school. So don't skip the ads in this one. Support our sponsors where you can, and your money will go to a good cause and you can rest easy knowing that.
[00:04:11] Here we go with Miki Mistrati.
[00:04:16] There are approximately three million tons of chocolate consumed per year, which is, you know, objectively a lot of chocolate. I was going to say a ton, but it doesn't really do it justice. What is three million tons? Does it? What most people don't know is that a lot of the cocoa needed for the chocolate is farmed by children working in slave-like conditions, which is disgusting when you think about it. And even more disgusting when you see it on camera like you've managed to capture.
[00:04:40] So first of all, thank you for coming on the show here.
[00:04:42] Miki Mistrati: Thank you for inviting me.
[00:04:44] Jordan Harbinger: How did you get wind of this issue to begin with? You know, were you just like a chocolate fan and then you went, holy crap, it's being made by slaves? How did this come to you?
[00:04:52] Miki Mistrati: No, actually, I was just a consumer. I was at my local supermarket to pick up, buy a chocolate park. That's more than 15 years ago. And there were seven chocolate bars and one was with a fair trade mark and I was just like, okay, this one is fair trade. What about the six others? Are they unfair trade?
[00:05:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:13] Miki Mistrati: That was actually my question to myself. So that was the very beginning of it. And then I went back and started to look up if there were any stories to research and I didn't find much, but there were a few pieces. One was in an American magazine called Fortune, where they were reported about child slavery and trafficking of kids. And I decided to reach out to the photographer from that piece, and I asked him, "Is this really a big issue out there?" He said, "Yeah, yeah, you can go with me." And I invited him to Copenhagen. He slept on my sofa for a couple of days, and then we traveled to Ivory Coast and honestly, It was just outside the door. It was huge. I was so shocked about how many kids were working in the cocoa fields.
[00:06:13] Jordan Harbinger: Most cocoa comes from Ivory Coast, right? There's one, is it one big Swiss supplier? The name sounds like Barry Gullible, but I'm getting it wrong.
[00:06:21] Miki Mistrati: Most of the cocoa comes from Côte d'Ivoire, Ivory Coast.
[00:06:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:25] Miki Mistrati: That's 40 percent and 25 percent from Ghana. They are neighboring countries. So that's the cocoa belt. And most of the cocoa is bought by Barry Callebaut or Olam. They are like a Cargill, American Cargill, and they buy like all, almost all the cocoa. And then, they are selling it to, uh, all the chocolate makers around the world.
[00:06:50] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So chocolate makers being like Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, the brands that we see in this space.
[00:06:56] Miki Mistrati: Mars.
[00:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mars, yeah. Mars, yeah.
[00:06:57] Miki Mistrati: Yes.
[00:06:58] Jordan Harbinger: What made you want to go undercover in, was it Mali in Africa to investigate child trafficking? Because trying to write about something, expose something, do a podcast about something that I get. But you were just like, "No, I want to go and see this with my own eyes. That had to be kind of a trip. No pun intended.
[00:07:14] Miki Mistrati: I didn't think too much about it then.
[00:07:17] Jordan Harbinger: That's the key, right?
[00:07:17] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. Because if you think too much you probably do stupid things.
[00:07:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:23] Miki Mistrati: And go undercover in Mali with lots of jihadists and lots of trouble. It's a very, very poor country.
[00:07:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:32] Miki Mistrati: But I decided to go undercover because sneaking around like a white guy in remote areas in Mali is not like too easy and with an open camera, but on the other hand, just a daily thing that kids from Mali were transported from Mali into Ivory Coast and then into the cocoa plantations. So, I was just sitting in a bus stop in the southern part of the country and some local helpers told me, "Hey, you just wait for the next bus and you will see that kids, you know, six, eight, 10 years old are getting picked up by traffickers. And they literally just did that in front of my face.
[00:08:23] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:08:23] Miki Mistrati: And I remember this, it was so like heartbreaking because you are out on the mission. You want to have your documentation of the problems. On the other, I just wanted to stop it in a way, you know?
[00:08:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:38] Miki Mistrati: To just go run to the local police and say, "Hey guys, there's illegal activities," but it's not an option when you're out working undercover in countries like Mali.
[00:08:50] Jordan Harbinger: Of course. I mean, if there are kids, first of all, six, eight, and 10 up to age, I think 14 was one of the kids in the documentary, or 15 years old, something like that. I have a three-year-old kid and I had to build a Lego set with him last night. You know, it's tough for him to do. I can't really imagine what a six-year-old could do on a plantation. And also I assume you're not really getting your money's worth out of a six-year-old kid. So they work there for years, I would imagine until you do. It's so unbelievably cruel to think of a six-year-old kid who should be watching cartoons and eating cereal in his pajamas, getting up early after sleeping outside in a hut that's locked and cutting cocoa pods open for, I don't know, eight to 12 hours a day in the sun and being smuggled in there away from his mom and dad, away from his brothers and sisters, from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso. It's really heartbreaking. And that's understating this, of course, but yeah, you can't report it to the cops because they already know. They know. Of course, they know.
[00:09:48] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. It's so easy information to get and that was what I was also a bit shocking for me that let's just say it was hiding the problems. No, it's easy. And the companies, the executives, they know. Cargill has been present in Côte d'Ivoire for more than 40 years. They have thousands of employees in Côte d'Ivoire, in Ivory Coast. It takes you a couple of hours driving into the cocoa belt in your four-wheel drive, and then you will walk into random. They even know where the cocoa comes from, from the specific areas and plantations because they have to know the producers of the cocoa. So it's so easy, it's just under your nose, so claiming—
[00:10:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:36] Miki Mistrati: At that time when I did my first film, they said, "Oh my goodness, we didn't know there was a problem." Well, today they are more like, "Well, we know there is a problem and we are doing our best to stop this, which is bollocks in my opinion. Because if you wanted to stop this, it would be so easy. Look at them right now. People can't pay their bills, for energy. In Europe, it's a big disaster at the moment. And you know what governments around Europe, they are now forcing people to say, "Hey, we need to be in houses. We need to pull down the heat because we are lacking electricity and energy." And guess what? They have a solution to it. It's all about being able to make decision to make changes. They can make the changes. And that's what's really, sorry for my French, pisses me off.
[00:11:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:11:35] Miki Mistrati: That we are talking about America's biggest company, family-owned, consumer company, supermarket Cargill. They could change this and they would be front runners if they did that, but unfortunately, they don't really care. I had to say, this is, of course, my opinion, they don't care because if they did care, they would make the changes. They can do it hand in hand with Mars, with Nestle, with all the big companies. That would be so easy to do.
[00:12:09] Jordan Harbinger: It really is horrifying and I think what you're doing is important because I'm sure their logic goes a little something like this, "We can't stop child slavery. That means we would have to pay workers more. And if we pay workers more, or we pay even the child laborer's actual money to deal with this problem where we enforce this, it's going to raise the price of chocolate. If cargo raises the price of chocolate, then Mars are Nestle and they don't do that. We're going to lose to our competitors." So what you're doing is surfacing this, such that the publicity is so bad for everyone involved, that they all have to do it at the same time, which means at the end, consumer pays five cents or four cents more for a bar of chocolate and no kids are trafficked from poor countries to other countries to work in fields all day as slaves. I mean, that's the definition of fair trade really in many ways.
[00:12:57] Miki Mistrati: It is. The thing is, when you look at the production of a chocolate bar. Only six to seven percent of the money goes to the farmers.
[00:13:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:07] Miki Mistrati: Let's just put it this way. There is space—
[00:13:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:10] Miki Mistrati: —to make it a better deal for the farmers. Why is it the one who does all the hard work will get the lowest pay? Of course, I know because they don't have a union. They don't have the—
[00:13:22] Jordan Harbinger: Power. Yeah.
[00:13:23] Miki Mistrati: —the power to make this and unfortunately, too many hands have to get money before it goes to the consumers. But as you said, the consumers could also do something to change things by, for instance, not buying that kind of chocolate.
[00:13:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The other thing is, and I know that there's people who go, "Yeah, well, it's market power, economic, nobody needs chocolate. It's a luxury product," right? I can't not get to work because my car doesn't have chocolate in it. I'm not going to freeze over the cold winter because I don't have chocolate, right? It's a luxury good. So you can't really apply the same sort of rationalizations and justifications as you would to natural gas, gasoline. And we've done like you, like you mentioned, we figured out how to deal with the fact that we don't have the petroleum issue. And yet, we're willing to go, "Eh, kids slaves farming cocoa pods. Look, we got bigger fish to fry." And that's the sad truth about this. And it really is like an epidemic of vanishing children.
[00:14:26] You spotlight this single village that you walked into, and I think this was, there was something like 500 inhabitants in this village. It's very small.
[00:14:33] Miki Mistrati: 430.
[00:14:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Not even 500. And it's missing 130-plus children. So over 20 percent of the population of this village is missing, or a quarter of the population is missing, and they don't know where the kids are. They were saying the traffickers come to these village markets and they lure the kids away without even telling the parents. Which as a parent of a small kid, I cannot even imagine the trauma, the nightmare that this induces. You take the kids to the market to go get some freaking tomatoes and they just never come home and then maybe they escape five years later after being enslaved. I mean, it's just a horrific situation.
[00:15:10] Miki Mistrati: It is. And what I really don't understand is why we, in such a rich world, we are living in 2022 now and this is still a problem — modern slavery with kids.
[00:15:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:15:25] Miki Mistrati: That's really what pisses me off, that we are talking about our future, our children. You know, one thing is that you have modern slavery with adults around the world, but with children, how dare we to not acting right away to stop this, right? Why is it that big countries like us and all the countries in EU, in Europe does not stop this immediately? Because we don't care.
[00:15:54] Jordan Harbinger: We don't care.
[00:15:54] Miki Mistrati: We don't care. That's the only conclusion I can reach to is we don't care. Why is it that we don't care about children? They don't have a voice. They don't have any power. They don't have anything, and they are going to be the future of this world. I find that horrible. It's horrible, terrible.
[00:16:15] Jordan Harbinger: I completely agree. I was horrified to find out how many kids were working on these cocoa plantations. It's something, and there are different estimates out there. You'll look at one that says 1.5 million—
[00:16:26] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:16:26] Jordan Harbinger: —in Ivory Coast and Ghana mostly, and other organizations will say 30,000. But even if you take that ridiculously low estimate, that is a ton of child slaves. No matter how you look at it. The population of the city I grew up in was like 40,000. The idea that three-fourths of that could have been enslaved children. That's hard to swallow. I think you wrote this in one of the pieces or this was written about you. The world's chocolate companies depend on cocoa produced with the aid of more than one million West African child laborers, according to a new report sponsored by the labor department.
[00:16:58] Miki Mistrati: That's right.
[00:16:59] Jordan Harbinger: So nearly 1.6 million children were engaged in child labor in cocoa production, according to the survey, and most of those were involved in tasks considered hazardous, such as wielding machetes, carrying heavy loads, or working with pesticide. Because of changes in methodology, the number of child laborers in the new survey, blah, blah, blah. The reason the numbers don't match, basically. This isn't about you. Sorry, it was an article written that also had mentioned of you in it and your work in it. So it's just crazy numbers. And the US Department of Labor in 2015 said it's probably more like two million children. And these are not organizations known for hyperbolic misinformation, right? It's the Department of Labor. They're just crunching the numbers here.
[00:17:39] Miki Mistrati: Exactly. And that's what I, I don't understand. Even the companies right now are agreeing to that kind of numbers. It's not like something they disagree in. We know there is a problem, and that's why I said from, I started my first research back in 2008 and up to now, now they admit, well, we have a problem.
[00:18:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:02] Miki Mistrati: And now, they'll just say, now, it's 2025. Everything would be good again. Everything would be sustainable produced and there would be no kids out there. That's a new fat, big lie.
[00:18:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:17] Miki Mistrati: First of all, why is it that they have to have more time? They've been working on this officially from 2001 where they said, "We will get rid of all child labor in the so-called Harkin–Engel Protocol, made by two representatives, one from the House and one from the Senate, and nothing has happened since. They've just pushed and pushed the date of when this will not be a problem anymore. And I have no faith in that any politician really can make any changes because they have had so many options to get rid of this problem. And genuinely, I'm asking, "Why isn't a company like Cargill or Mars saying, "Well, we could do a PR stunt, well, a PR marketing out of this. Now, we want to be the first mover."
[00:19:19] We are living in a world right now where the planet is under pressure. The climate change is doing a good job of trying to get rid of all of us. We have lots of problems with the animal welfare and stuff. I'm just thinking why is it that some of them in the boardroom saying, "You know, guys, I think I have a brilliant idea. Let's just invite this guy, Miki from Denmark, and ask him, 'Can we do this together with you and a few others and tell us how we can do it and we will pay what it costs.'" They would be a big business for them, and I do not understand why they don't do that. Because right now it's the time for big changes and the consumers will follow this suggestion. I'm a hundred percent, but I know what is the problem. You mentioned it in the beginning. The problem is that no one dares to take the lead alone.
[00:20:21] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:20:21] Miki Mistrati: They have to agree in a big group of all the big companies that this is what we do, instead of being front runners and make the changes this world so in need of, I generally don't understand.
[00:20:37] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, Europe tends to lead the way on this. We do that kind of thing with laws and regulations, and I'm not a huge fan of overregulating things, but this is one of those areas where laws and regulations come in and make everybody change at the same time. And that's the only way we rip off this Band-Aid. Going back to something you'd said earlier with Harkin–Engel, so people know what that is with the senator and the house of representative, they were trying back in, was it 2001 or so? Trying to get—
[00:21:05] Miki Mistrati: Yes.
[00:21:06] Jordan Harbinger: —just a label on chocolate that said this bar may be made with child labor. It was something along those lines, or this bar was not made with child labor and they had to audit the thing. So they set the deadline. Of course, industry fought that like crazy. They missed the 2005 deadline. They missed the 2010 deadline. Then the industry said, "Well, let's just revise our goal and make it less ambitious. Let's just get a 70 percent reduction in child labor instead of eliminating it, and then we'll do that by 2020." And then that goal too, surprise, surprise, didn't get met. And there's also still no plan to label chocolate that's made with slave labor. So basically, they delayed, delayed, delayed, didn't do anything, then reduced the goal, then didn't even accomplish that, and now they're just basically ignoring it.
[00:21:50] Miki Mistrati: Yeah, and I think since they started this, they had a joint agreement of having a kind of program, which covers all the companies, but right now they have taken all the programs back. So Nestle has their own. Mondelēz has, for instance, Cocoa Life. So they have their own programs to try to fight against child labor, but nothing really works.
[00:22:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:22:19] Miki Mistrati: I was in Ghana in, that was in January this year. That's Mondelēz. Mondelēz owns Cadbury, which is a former British brand, a chocolate brand. Mondelēz is American based in Chicago. It's a huge chocolate manufacturer. And you know what? I went to the Cocoa Life plantations, the so-called sustainable sourced cocoa plantations. It was full of Ghanaian children working, even forced one. We met a young, she was 12. And she was so afraid, she was against her will at that plantation, but she didn't dare to say anything to the plantation owner.
[00:23:11] Jordan Harbinger: Of course. And she's a 12-year-old girl who's alone. Why would she say anything?
[00:23:15] Miki Mistrati: Her wish was to go to school.
[00:23:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's another important note. These kids are not in school. It's not like they go to school and they work an hour in the cocoa plantation. They sleep outside in these huts in the fields. Then, in the morning, somebody who's essentially their jailer will unlock the door and let them out for, I don't know, six, eight hours of work, whatever the workday is.
[00:23:33] Miki Mistrati: From six morning to six in the afternoon. Yeah.
[00:23:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. In the African sun during the harvest season. It's horrible. I mean, there's no getting around it, there's just no getting around it.
[00:23:42] Backing up a little bit or jumping around a little bit, I should say, this has to be dangerous work investigating this. Surely, you are at risk of exposing something like this. I don't just mean of risk of lawsuits for defamation or whatever. I'm sure that's a risk too, but tell me about Guy-André Kieffer. This guy just vanished.
[00:24:00] Miki Mistrati: Just a few years before I went the first time, Guy-André Kieffer, who was a Canadian journalist. He was investigating in Ivory Coast and he just disappeared. And they never find his body or anything. He's still missing today. So, I knew that when I was sticking into it, and of course, it is dangerous to dig into such a big business because, you know, no one really likes you to try to get to the bottom of this problem because we are talking about so many billions of US dollars with changing hands. So of course, I was aware of that, but if I did think too much, I wouldn't go.
[00:24:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:50] Miki Mistrati: And I know my children have said a couple of times, isn't it the time where you let someone else to do your work?
[00:24:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:24:57] Miki Mistrati: And I do understand, and of course, it is something I am thinking about.
[00:25:03] Jordan Harbinger: Your kids are grown.
[00:25:03] Miki Mistrati: Yes, they are, but you know—
[00:25:05] Jordan Harbinger: They still love you.
[00:25:07] Miki Mistrati: They still love me.
[00:25:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:10] Miki Mistrati: Apparently. Yeah. No, I think it's a thing where you really need to not think too much. You need to—
[00:25:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah
[00:25:17] Miki Mistrati: —look at the mission. What you're trying to achieve, and stick to that no matter what. I've been in a kind of, well, a hold-up in Mali, with some local militias.
[00:25:30] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:25:30] Miki Mistrati: I was afraid because my local fixer, he looked at me and said, "Just pay them the money. And I could see in his eyes that this was serious business. And we were in the middle of the night in the bush, which was stupid, but we couldn't manage to go from one village to another village in time. So, I just had to take everything I had of cash. I gave it, and fortunately, they said, okay, hey, go. But they were pointing like AK-47 into the cars and they didn't look like friendly, let me put it that way.
[00:26:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:09] Miki Mistrati: And the thing is, you never know in those situations if it's going to get really—
[00:26:17] Jordan Harbinger: Ugly.
[00:26:17] Miki Mistrati: —bad.
[00:26:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:18] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. You know, potentially they could have shot us. No one would have known where we were or anything. So, yeah, that's one thing. And then I've been arrested in Ivory Coast with my American photographer. He passed away a couple of years ago, unfortunately, but he managed to get us out through the American Embassy in Abidjan.
[00:26:44] Jordan Harbinger: Is Abidjan the capital of Ivory Coast?
[00:26:46] Miki Mistrati: Well, it's not the capital, it's the financial capital if you like.
[00:26:50] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, so it's not the Washington DC, it's the New York. Okay, gotcha.
[00:26:53] Miki Mistrati: It is, yes.
[00:26:56] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Miki Mistrati. We'll be right back.
[00:27:01] This episode is sponsored in part by Innovation Refunds. If you own a business, it's been a bumpy ride these last couple of years from pandemic to Inflation, we could all use a freaking break. My friend owns this company. I think it's a genius idea. If your business has five or more employees and managed to survive COVID, you could be eligible to receive a payroll tax rebate of up to $26,000 per employee. It's not a loan. There's no payback. It is a refund off your taxes. This is your money that you can get back potentially — and it sounds too good to be true. So what's the catch? The challenge is getting your hands on it. As always, the government likes to make things nice and simple, as we all know. Not at all. How do you cut through the red tape? How do you get your business this refund money that you may be entitled to? Go to getrefunds.com/jordan. They've got a team of tax attorneys they've put together that are highly trained in this little-known payroll tax refund program. They've already returned over a billion dollars to businesses, which is mind-blowing and they can help you too. They do all the work with no charge up front. I made sure to ask about that because I don't like stuff where you get pay and then you're not sure if you're going to get it. They simply share a percentage of the cash that they get for you. Businesses of all types can qualify, including those who took PPP loans, including nonprofits, and including those that had an increase in sales. You don't have to get wrecked by the pandemic or whatever to qualify for this. To find out if your business qualifies, just go to getrefunds.com/jordan. Click on Qualify Me and answer a few questions.
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[00:30:34] Now back to Miki Mistrati.
[00:30:38] So yeah, it has to be in the back of your mind when you're out in the middle of nowhere, toting around a freaking video camera, a bunch of batteries, audio gear. You're exposing what amounts to international, corporate-sponsored, organized crime that goes to the absolute highest levels of government. You're doing it on camera. If they catch you out there, you are totally screwed. You could easily vanish without a trace. Nobody would ever find you, let alone even start looking for you. Where would they even begin to do? And as you'd mentioned, these trafficking areas, many are controlled by militias. So I assume for those listening, that means no government control, no police presence. There's no one to go and tell. Even if they wanted to find what's left to you, they couldn't even necessarily get into this area easily to do it because it's controlled by rebels.
[00:31:23] Miki Mistrati: Yes, just adding up that information.
[00:31:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:26] Miki Mistrati: It's just where you think, is this really worth doing it?
[00:31:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:30] Miki Mistrati: But I really genuinely think it's worth doing it, and I'm not planning to stop anyway, before the end of child slavery. So that's my plan. But, of course, I am cautious about not flagging when I'm traveling.
[00:31:48] Jordan Harbinger: Flacking what does that mean?
[00:31:49] Miki Mistrati: You know, raising a flag, saying—
[00:31:51] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, flagging, flagging.
[00:31:52] Miki Mistrati: Yeah, I'm coming now. The good thing is president goes and come in those countries, so it's a little bit easier when there has been an election and a new president is elected because then, kind of out of control, who is the enemy of the state, if you know what I mean?
[00:32:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So are the malicious in on the trafficking or is it just that since these areas are outside government control, nobody can do anything to solve the problems that are already there?
[00:32:20] Miki Mistrati: When there is money, there is militias.
[00:32:23] Jordan Harbinger: That's what I've thought.
[00:32:23] Miki Mistrati: So up in the northern part of Ivory Coast, there are corporations between local militias and yeah, the plantation owners. But look at it this way. You could take into organized crime. It is, but it's in small circle because at the end of the day, I have a kind of an understanding of why plantation owners, we are talking about family-owned, small farms who can't afford any labor.
[00:32:52] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:32:53] Miki Mistrati: Because what they get for the cocoa beans are so low that they can't afford to hire anyone. So that's the reason why they have to buy for instance, a child to help them out despite they're not paying for the kids.
[00:33:09] Jordan Harbinger: They pay the trafficker for the kids. They don't pay the kids—
[00:33:12] Miki Mistrati: Yes.
[00:33:12] Jordan Harbinger: —labor. They give the money to a trafficker who sits around smoking and kidnapping kids or whatever.
[00:33:17] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:33:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:18] Miki Mistrati: At the end of the day, it's all about poverty. If you look at in your own country, in the United States of America, you have lots of crime too. But at the end of the day, at that level, it goes down to poverty.
[00:33:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:31] Miki Mistrati: Because really poor people want to survive, in a way. I'm not talking about high-end criminals who are like organizing everything from a big mansion up in the hills or whatever. No, I'm talking about like underground, people who do the crime. I'm not accepting crime at any point, but I do understand sometimes that very poor people are part of a crime system only because they want to survive. You know, the traffickers, they are poor people. They're just locals who by coincidence did find a way to get a little bit of money. And so they tricked the kids from Mali into Ivory Coast.
[00:34:17] So it's a kind of a system which is based on needs, but at the end of the day, it comes down to we as consumer doesn't pay enough for the chocolate. And you could also say either the big to blame is the companies because the profit they get from this is so gigantic. You know, it's stock market, unless it's Cargill, which is family-owned, but rest of the companies are on the stock market and they are in it for one thing profit, which is all right. But profit comes first to anything, and that's where I question a bit, why is it that it's necessary to have such a big profit? And what you get out of it is child slavery. And as I said so many times, I repeat saying this, I don't understand that. It's terrible.
[00:35:14] Jordan Harbinger: I want to back up a little bit. Can you briefly describe the cocoa plantation to chocolate that we're eating process? You know, it starts off on a farm. Okay. Then what happens? What happens on the farm? Where does it go?
[00:35:27] Miki Mistrati: Most of the cocoa farms are small family-owned.
[00:35:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:35:32] Miki Mistrati: A family with maybe two, three, four kids. And it's between four and six [Accra]—
[00:35:39] Jordan Harbinger: Acres, yeah.
[00:35:40] Miki Mistrati: Yeah, acres. Yeah, it's tiny. So what they do, they have the coca trees is in kind of the jungle together with a few other trees like rubber trees. And the cocoa beans, it takes quite a long time before it gets to a pod. It's a pod where the beans are inside, right?
[00:36:02] Jordan Harbinger: The pods. Yeah.
[00:36:02] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. And the pod is like the size of a football, basically, American football.
[00:36:08] Jordan Harbinger: American football. Oh, wow. That's pretty big actually.
[00:36:11] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:36:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:36:11] Miki Mistrati: And it contains around 26 to 30 beans. So they need to harvest the beans and then they have to crack the beans, open it, and take out the beans for drying and they're using machetes to cut down the pods and to break the pods to get the beans out. They need to use a machete. And we are talking about kits doing that.
[00:36:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:36:38] Miki Mistrati: And they are taking out the beans. And then the beans are dried in the sun for a couple of days. And then a middleman comes to the farms and ask to buy the beans. And he collects like beans from maybe 500—
[00:36:56] Jordan Harbinger: Ah.
[00:36:57] Miki Mistrati: —plantations in the same area. And then, he goes to companies like Cargill or Barry Callebaut or Olam and sell the beans to them. And then, half all the beans, and then they are selling it either to directly to companies like Nestle or Mars, or they are selling it on the stock market as commodity.
[00:37:20] Jordan Harbinger: Commodity. Yeah.
[00:37:21] Miki Mistrati: That's basically how it works but, of course, there is lots of hands to feed in this chain. It's not a complicated, supply chain. It's quite easy to understand. But you know, every time you do business, some people always find a way to take a little bit, you know, a little piece of the business and that's what's happening.
[00:37:45] Jordan Harbinger: One euro for the farmer for a kilo of cocoa becomes 40 chocolate bars, which are, of course, worth well over one euro, probably a euro each, I don't even know, right? So, they're really turning quite a bit of profit. Yes, there's a lot of middlemen of course, but there's a lot of margin here as well.
[00:38:02] Miki Mistrati: Oh yes.
[00:38:02] Jordan Harbinger: For what looks like backbreaking work. You mentioned getting the pods, cracking them open, getting the beans out, drying them in the sun. And these farmers make what I think I've read some research, this is up to a thousand euros a year to feed a wife and three kids, a whole family. So it's just wild how poor they must be, and this is in Ghana. In Ivory Coast, they actually make 30 percent less because apparently, Ghana has a minimum national price on cocoa that they enforce.
[00:38:28] Miki Mistrati: They have the same in Ivory Coast now.
[00:38:30] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, they do, okay.
[00:38:31] Miki Mistrati: But this minimum price is, again, it's bollocks.
[00:38:34] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:34] Miki Mistrati: Because remember it's the state, the government makes that minimum price, but if that price is so low that it does make sense—
[00:38:45] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:46] Miki Mistrati: —you can have like minimum wage in the US for instance, you know, it's so low, so it doesn't really make sense. So despite that, there is a minimum price. It doesn't work for the farmers.
[00:39:00] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. Right, the minimum price may not even get to the farmer. It's the person who sells the beans. Maybe the guy who's the middle man or the intermediary—
[00:39:08] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:39:08] Jordan Harbinger: —is getting that price. They're not necessarily saying, "Hey, I'm making more now so I'm going to kick it back down to you guys." They're just saying, "How do you like my new car or whatever?"
[00:39:16] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:39:16] Jordan Harbinger: Of course, cocoa exporters deny all the rumors of trafficking. Do you think that they are ignorant of this or are they lying? Are they just keeping their eyes closed? It seems like you got to know it's not hidden.
[00:39:30] Miki Mistrati: I am a hundred percent that they know it exists now. It's not hidden information anymore. I have done so many films now and I can see how it's developed the last 15 years from being something, they were like, "Well, we didn't know there was problem," to now they are like taking the responsibility forward, or they tend to tell the public that they take this very serious. But when they go to court, because I picture the court and watching Nestle and Cargill's lawyers arguing in court in the US saying that, "Oh, we are just a candy company. We do not know what happens in the plantation. This is not our role." So when they are talking to me as a consumer, they tell me that, "We are aware. We will do a really good job for you. We will make sure that this will end." And when they jump into the courtroom, they're saying, "Oh, sorry, but this is not our responsibility." So I hope the judges somehow hear what happens in the public.
[00:40:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course. There's all tons of footage of 10-year-old kids working on the farms, not going to school. They can't even speak the local language, which means they're not from that country. Of course, they're trafficked in. You got people on film quoting prices saying, "How much is a child?" "230 euros that includes delivery.
[00:41:00] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:41:00] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, it doesn't get any more clearer than that. There's really no speculating when somebody's offering to sell you a kid at a certain price. It means they've done it before and they have the infrastructure to do it. And most children of course never get paid. How do we know the kids aren't getting paid?
[00:41:14] Miki Mistrati: Ah, because they tell me.
[00:41:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:16] Miki Mistrati: I'm asking the children, you know, how much they get for the work and they say nothing. They just get food. And can you blame the farmer? Because he can't afford. That's the craziness about the system, and that's why I'm saying I'm not trying to protect the farmers. But I do understand the problem from the farmer's point of view, and this is the bigger problem about all this is the system we have in place. It doesn't work. We had a system where the one who is hard, you know, the hard-working part of it, they get paid nothing and the other end of the chain, they make a fortune out of it.
[00:41:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Nestle's alone is like a hundred-plus billion dollar-a-year company.
[00:42:02] Miki Mistrati: The same with Mondelēz and Cargill. It's ridiculous.
[00:42:05] Jordan Harbinger: Did people ever escape?
[00:42:07] Miki Mistrati: Yes. I met a few kids in Mali who escaped. The thing is when they are like 10, 12, 14, they are, you know, so afraid.
[00:42:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:42:20] Miki Mistrati: The last one I did see, he was so afraid. That was in Ivory Coast. His name was Abu, 14 years old, and he had been in the plantation for two years, he told me. And when the camera was not filming him because we had to, you know, when you are filming in that environment, you need to be cautious because the farmers. They know that we are doing something which is not good. So we have to be quite like—
[00:42:51] Jordan Harbinger: Discreet?
[00:42:51] Miki Mistrati: Discreet, yes. But I asked this guy, 14 years old and did, he did like this and he asked me if I had any money because he was starving.
[00:43:01] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, he signaled to his mouth. For people listening and now watching, he pointed to his mouth like, "Feed me," basically.
[00:43:06] Miki Mistrati: Yes.
[00:43:06] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:43:07] Miki Mistrati: I gave him some local bank notes because it was so, you know, that's again one of the situations where I was like, "Oh my goodness. We can't leave this boy." It's the middle of nowhere. Under normal circumstances, you would go to the police.
[00:43:25] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:43:26] Miki Mistrati: And say, "Hey, there is a crime ongoing. Please could you go out there?" But, first of all, I'm undercover.
[00:43:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:34] Miki Mistrati: I'm illegal in the country. Two, would the local put police do anything?
[00:43:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, they would arrest you and kick your ass. I'm sure. I mean, come on.
[00:43:43] Miki Mistrati: So it's a kind of a catch-22, but that doesn't really change my mindset on this because it's so heartbreaking when you see like kids suffering. This is the worst thing for me, seeing kids suffering like that. He was starving and we are talking about 40 degrees Celcius. That's how hot it is. And they are working like hard working with the machete.
[00:44:10] Jordan Harbinger: So it's like a hundred degrees outside. Is that what 40 is? I think it's something like a hundred degrees.
[00:44:14] Miki Mistrati: Yeah, that's around a hundred, I guess. Yes.
[00:44:16] Jordan Harbinger: Geez.
[00:44:16] Miki Mistrati: And imagine also I've seen like kids working with the pesticides.
[00:44:21] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:44:22] Miki Mistrati: And we are talking about boys and they do not have any mask or protection. They are just spraying the trees and they do that at least four to six times a year. No one knows at the moment what the longer effect of using pesticides. I did take a lot of photos of the pesticides just to get and analyze up what it was. And we are talking about serious business. You wouldn't even be able to sell it in Europe, for instance.
[00:44:53] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:54] Miki Mistrati: Because that's illegal and that's what they're spraying the trees with and they're just spraying without any protection. And how do you think their life would be if they managed to flee from the plantation, which normally would be around when they are like 16, 18, when they get that old that they know, "Okay, we need to flee from here."
[00:45:17] Jordan Harbinger: Interpol knows about this and they've rescued children from plantations just in case people think like, "Oh, I don't know. There could be another explanation for all this." I mean, there's documented rescues from international organizations and I know that Nestle and to other chocolate companies, they say, "We don't control the farms. We don't control the labor practices because we don't control the farms." Other industries can and do make an effort to do this. Nestle wouldn't even see your film or meet with you. By the way, I love that you set up a giant screen across from their headquarters and blasted the audio and the video at their headquarters. They must have loved that. That's a bad Monday for Nestle.
[00:45:51] Miki Mistrati: Yeah, no, I really enjoyed that moment but, unfortunately, the police did a report in me and said that I'm not welcome in Vevey, which is the hometown of Nestles headquarter in Switzerland. So I'm not allowed to go to that canton region in Switzerland. That was what I got told by the police at that sequence.
[00:46:14] Jordan Harbinger: Can they do that? They can ban you from an area? No, they can't do anything.
[00:46:18] Miki Mistrati: On the other hand, it's Switzerland.
[00:46:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:20] Miki Mistrati: Honestly, Switzerland is different. It's a kind of it's own country in Europe, in the middle of—
[00:46:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:29] Miki Mistrati: This is where you have been hiding gold from the Nazi times, you know?
[00:46:33] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah.
[00:46:34] Miki Mistrati: In the past, and you have bank secrets and stuff. So I'm not like surprised about the way the Swiss are dealing with problem from outside. Let me just put it that way.
[00:46:46] Jordan Harbinger: We love to think of Switzerland as the home of chocolate watches, you know, friendly whatever people, mixed cultures. But at the end of the day, there's a lot of stolen Nazi gold, money laundering, and serious issues that go with it. And of course, any country like that, that has hundreds of billions of dollars flowing through it every single month from companies like Nestle, they're not known for putting ethics above money. And I'm saying that as an American, so I realize how hypocritical it probably sounds, but if there's anybody that we can hold hands with in that department at Switzerland.
[00:47:20] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. And the funny thing is that lots of the chocolate headquarters are in Switzerland.
[00:47:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm. Of course.
[00:47:26] Miki Mistrati: Because then they're not part of the European Union, so they are protected. And none of my films has been shown in Switzerland.
[00:47:34] Jordan Harbinger: Surprise.
[00:47:35] Miki Mistrati: Every time that, you know, they get the offer of buying it, they reject it. The reasons are like this is not what we are looking for, and stuff like that. It's ridiculous in a way, but today with online, it doesn't really matter because if it doesn't go out on a broadcast. It goes online. So they can't stop the information anyway.
[00:48:00] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly, yeah. And look after your initial expose chocolate companies, they did start to spend a ton on marketing and whitewashing their reputation, or I should say greenwashing. We've done a show on this episode 599 on similar things where they do, they sort of label things or say, "Hey, we're sending the kids to school," supposedly, "we're going to build some local infrastructure."
[00:48:21] Actually, I was wrong about Nestle's revenue. I think it's 68 billion euros a year, or is it 68 billion euros a year on chocolate alone.
[00:48:28] Miki Mistrati: On chocolate.
[00:48:28] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay. So maybe I did have the original figure correct. But the chocolate figure alone is 68 billion euros. So paying a for a living wage or allowing for pesky luxuries, like basic human rights for children in their supply chain, it's well within reach if they actually wanted to do it.
[00:48:45] All right. After your initial exposé, you go and investigate their new business practice. Of course. Just to see if it's real. But then what? The Ivory Coast wouldn't let you back in, right?
[00:48:56] Miki Mistrati: No. So I had to go undercover again and I couldn't get, you know, I asked for two years. I asked the companies for the list of the schools they have been, they're claiming to build—
[00:49:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:10] Miki Mistrati: —and all the projects because I was actually open to see because they claim that we are doing a lot for fighting against child labor. We are building schools and stuff like that. And I was to say, "Hey, please, I would love to go. Could you just send me the list of the schools?" They rejected that and then we decided to say, "Hey, let's just go undercover again and see, and just digging around with my local fixer and see what we can find." And then we did find schools, which was like not even half done. The guy was running the school. He said, "Well, yeah, they came and we were doing the plans and they did the first foundation of the school and then they disappeared and never came back." Just the schools we went to, it was again, just greenwashing.
[00:50:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:04] Miki Mistrati: And again, I do not understand why is it that people want to lie about it.
[00:50:08] Jordan Harbinger: It's cheaper, right? Well, it's cheaper.
[00:50:12] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. But a bit of how can you lie to the consumers? Maybe it's because the consumers really don't care. I don't know. I don't understand because at that time they knew about me. They knew what I was able to do. So not giving me the list of the projects they claimed they did was one thing I didn't understand. It was in between two elections and there were a civil war in Ivory Coast at that time. That was the reason why we had to pull out. The thing is, they were right. It was in the middle of two presidents that were in a, there was a civil war, but we were talking about when I saw the school, that was like, I think 14 months later, they had all the time to get back to make what they promised, but they didn't.
[00:51:05] Jordan Harbinger: Well, they had a built-in excuse, right? They can say, well, there was a war, and they're not wrong about that. But it's like, "Well, should we restart this project? Nah, we already got the photos. We already printed out the brochures. If that Miki guy goes back, we'll just say there was a war." Right? I mean, it's really, how did you get back into the country? Did you have them traffic you into the country via the back roads and things like that? I mean, you already know how to get in illegally because you saw them do it with the kids.
[00:51:28] Miki Mistrati: No. The thing is, I was banned by the former president, and now a new president was in office and my local fixer, he told me, "No one knows. It's all right. Let's just take the chance," and then we did that.
[00:51:45] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Miki Mistrati. We'll be right back.
[00:51:49] This episode is sponsored in part by NPR's Planet Money podcast. With the great resignation, inflation on the rise, and a future recession on everybody's minds, money is everywhere in everything fueling our lives. If you're a fan of The Jordan Harbinger Show and you want to learn something new and exciting about money every week, I suggest you check out Planet Money Podcast from NPR. Planet Money is a different kind of world where the complex economy actually makes sense, where human stories supersede abstract theories and where listeners can learn, laugh and be entertained. It's Econ down to earth. Planet Money does an amazing job presenting you with small, interesting stories from around the world about parts of the economy you never knew existed. It'll bring you stories about how four drinking buddies saved Brazil from skyrocketing inflation. A recent episode I enjoy it explains the high cost of having the US dollar so strong right now. From offshoring cashiers to new ways to pay for college to breaking down the price of gasoline, the Planet Money team lives to tell a good story in bite-sized 30-minute episodes. It's Econ for the rest of us. Tune into Planet Money every week for entertaining stories and insights about how money shapes our world, stories that can't be found anywhere else. Listen now to Planet Money from NPR, wherever you get your podcasts.
[00:52:55] Special thanks to Invesco for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Discover the possibilities at invesco.com/etfsolutions.
[00:53:03] This episode is also sponsored in part by Build for Tomorrow podcast. Build for Tomorrow is a fascinating show by Jason Feifer, a buddy of mine. He was on episode 721 of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Jason's able to take something that's confusing and he'll learn a surprising history, what important things we're missing, and the solutions that can make us smarter and better. It hits a lot of notes, a lot of history, technology, business, psychology, and general curiosity about the world. But the overarching theme is that change can be positive and that we always benefit when we focus on the opportunities ahead. For example, I learned that back in 1907, teddy bears were feared to destroy humanity by ruining young girls' maternal instincts, which is so ridiculous and hear why the phrase, "nobody wants to work anymore," is BS. And those exact words have actually been said for literally hundreds of years. I had no idea, but it totally makes sense, right? When you listen to Build for Tomorrow, you learn that today's worries are often just echoes of yesterday's worries and that the future is really full of opportunity. That's why listeners say this show helps them feel more optimistic. I agree with that. Check out Build for Tomorrow, wherever you get your podcasts.
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[00:54:38] Now for the rest of my conversation with Miki Mistrati.
[00:54:43] Yeah, you found many of the schools are just concrete shells. I saw the video on that and I thought, oh man, it doesn't have a roof. There's no floor, there's nothing here. I mean, it's a couple of walls with holes in them. I mean, that was really it.
[00:54:53] Miki Mistrati: And remember when the companies are talking about this in like marketing papers, they never tell this.
[00:55:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:03] Miki Mistrati: They just take some nice photos and claiming, "This is what we do." And it is difficult to be a consumer then to really see if they are lying or not because they have the pictures from maybe another school or whatever, I don't know, but five places out of a list turned out to be 31. The five schools were all lacking construction when we were there.
[00:55:33] Jordan Harbinger: Some companies had popped up to try and audit the cocoa supply chain. For example, Source Trust claims to be able to trace fair-trade cocoa back to the farm using these code numbers. But then you visited one of their offices, they picked a sack and showed you how it's traced. And you're like, "Well, I'll just pick a random one and you trace it," and then they couldn't do it. And then, you picked another one and they couldn't do it. What did you make of that at that point? Because it was pretty obvious, they were just like picking the one where the system worked and the rest of them are just, the whole thing looks like bullsh*t.
[00:56:02] Miki Mistrati: The thing is, I remember this so clear because my intention was good. I was really looking for the good example of how you could do this. And I gave them so many chances.
[00:56:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:16] Miki Mistrati: And I can reveal this now, today, the sack, they, at the end of the clip, did find to match the code I was asking for was not the one.
[00:56:28] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wasn't.
[00:56:29] Miki Mistrati: No, it wasn't. At that time, that was in 2012, I was just, so, it was kind of a hope inside me.
[00:56:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:37] Miki Mistrati: Because this was the good example. It was not the right one, but I just gave the, the credit, which was a mistake at that time. But now I can say it because I've just seen that even the so-called sustainable sourced cocoa is the same kind of sh*t, to be honest.
[00:56:58] Jordan Harbinger: So is Source Trust a front to keep up appearances or was it just garden variety incompetence that their system didn't work or you think it's just it doesn't work at all and it's just a bunch of nonsense for PR?
[00:57:09] Miki Mistrati: It's a bunch of nonsense. The problem is, because I saw that in Ivory Coast less than two years ago, we went to fair trade places and it is in my newest film, we went to this place where they are covering a thousand plantations and fair trade comes like ones in three years to check and they don't know where the cocoa bean comes from. It will be mixed up with conventional production. No one really knows. They know the farmers, but they don't know where the beans are from.
[00:57:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:57:42] Miki Mistrati: Because it's just mixed up. It's a kind of, you pay a premium, but for what?
[00:57:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:57:48] Miki Mistrati: And that's where, let's say, my hope did break because I thought this was the right way to do it, but as it is right now, it does not work.
[00:58:01] Jordan Harbinger: So what about the fair trade seals on the things on chocolate, those labels, are they valid at all or is it just like, "Hey, we tried to audit this, but it's bullsh*t." "Ah, well they paid, so put the frog on it."
[00:58:12] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[00:58:12] Jordan Harbinger: That's it, huh?
[00:58:13] Miki Mistrati: Exactly. And I said in Ghana this year we were checking Mondelēz Cocoa Life. It's a green stamp on every, if you go to your local supermarket and find a Mondelēz chocolate, there was lots of that in the US. I went to a specific plantation, which was certified by Cocoa Life and that Cocoa Life is Mondelēz's own. It was full of children and that was so-called hundred percent sustainable sourced cocoa.
[00:58:46] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:58:47] Miki Mistrati: Yeah, I know. It's ridiculous.
[00:58:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:58:48] Miki Mistrati: And remember for me it's even worse because I want to find the hope in it. Unfortunately, the system does not work as it stands . So even the sustainable cocoa. It's not great, but there are like ways to get around it. But I would never go for any chocolate where it doesn't tell me on the chocolate bar where the region of the bean comes from because, for instance, what I do, I buy chocolate from Ecuador or from Peru or South America because cocoa plantations or cocoa production in South America is quite like, it's part of the history of South America. It's something you have been using in the food of South American food. The Aztecs, the Maya has been doing that for three, four thousand years. So it's kind of the culture. Beware that the cocoa beans came to Africa in the mid-1800th century.
[00:59:53] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, I didn't know that.
[00:59:55] Miki Mistrati: No, but that's the thing. No one in Africa cares about cocoa. It's trees, which came from South American with the slave trades and stuff. And suddenly, in 1860s, you know, white people came and say, "Hey, those cocoa beans, we like to buy them." And they were just saying, literally saying, "Yeah, if you like, okay, buy it." Because cocoa beans is not something you use in Africa. It's just a commodity. It's just something someone wants to buy.
[01:00:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:00:30] Miki Mistrati: In South America, if you go to Mexico, cocoa beans is part of chili con carne, it's part of the food tradition.
[01:00:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:00:39] Miki Mistrati: So there is a difference between the two places and child labor in the cocoa industry in South America is, I can't guarantee that there's absolutely no children, but—
[01:00:53] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:00:53] Miki Mistrati: —it's not something we have been hearing about. It's not a problem. So I always go for the chocolate bar which is from South America. And that's easy to find. And the funny thing is, if it doesn't say anything, it's from Ivory Coast.
[01:01:12] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[01:01:12] Miki Mistrati: No one is actually marketing it as this is from Ivory Coast.
[01:01:18] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:01:18] Miki Mistrati: No one. So that's the way to come around it.
[01:01:21] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. So if you're a consumer and you love chocolate, get South American chocolate because chances are, it doesn't have the same types of problems. And I know people are probably a little confused here, there are auditors who certify the plantations. The problem is, it sounds like this happens one time every three years or so. How the heck are you going to enforce child labor laws at that scale and that frequency? It just doesn't make any sense. The farm inspections are so sporadic that that means they're going to be easily evaded. And it would be very impossible for these inspectors to come and audit because there are thousands and thousands of these very small farms and plantations.
[01:01:58] So essentially when the certification auditors come, the children get ushered from the field somewhere else and the farmers say, there's no kids here. And this is from a Nestle report. This is from November 2017 report from Nestle saying we can't audit all of these. And they're easily evaded and the farmers deny it happening, even though we know it's happening.
[01:02:18] So it's not even the company saying, "Hey, none of this is happening. They know that it's happening and they just say we can't do anything about it, which is somehow worse because you know that's BS.
[01:02:27] Miki Mistrati: Yeah. And as I said, the cooperative I visited latest, they have like a thousand farms. And how can you check a thousand farms?
[01:02:40] Jordan Harbinger: You don't. You check a hundred and you say whatever, it's fine.
[01:02:42] Miki Mistrati: Yeah.
[01:02:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You check 10 percent or less than that and you say, "That's probably fine."
[01:02:46] Miki Mistrati: And news I got was that a lot of farmers now are removing from fair trade production. It's a premium one. They get a little bit more paid for the cocoa beans. But the problem is the admin work they need to do is enormous. They can't afford people staff to work in the plantation, but now they have to do a lot of admin work, you know, do documents and stuff like that. And the price they get more for the premium beans is not enough. So they go back to conventional production again. Because the problem is the price difference between a conventional production and a premium one is too small. Fair trade doesn't pay enough for it, and that's quite a new problem.
[01:03:40] Jordan Harbinger: There's a lawsuit, or there was a lawsuit going and made it all the way up to the Supreme Court with some escaped, essentially escaped slave children who worked in these plantations and these huge companies, the chocolate companies, Cargill, Nestle, they hired some of the biggest law firms in the United States.
[01:03:56] And this one dude who's got a two-person firm, essentially Terry Cosgrove is his name. They're taking him on. And I used to be in the legal space. I used to be an attorney myself. So these firms for other lawyers out there listening, talking about Gibson Dunn, 1200 lawyers there, Mayer Brown, 1600-plus lawyers there. Just to give people an idea of the resources that these companies are mustering. Obviously, these attorneys are not all working on the chocolate case, but that just gives you an idea of what these chocolate companies are throwing at the fight against two guys who are working pro bono for free on these cases. These are thousand dollars an hour lawyers billing. So they would love for this to go on for a decade and a half and bill the entire time because the cases are worth billions of dollars to the chocolate companies. They're just trying to win the case with money, and it's just very, very clear that there's so much money involved that they can afford to delay this. But it's like the ethical cost is extremely high.
[01:04:51] I know and I've read in my research, Miki, that Cargill has some training against child labor, which is technically illegal on the ground, but it sounds like the training is, "Hey, make sure you don't have any illegal kids working on your farm." It's just the fox guarding the chicken coop, as we say over here in the United States. I mean, this is the honor system. It makes absolutely no sense.
[01:05:11] Miki Mistrati: No, not at all. And I think if this need to be solved, they need to put much more money into it, because, of course, there are like programs, GoodWeave, for instance, in India is a good example of how they got rid of children working in the carpet industry. But they need to have a system where they're monitoring this quite with, you know, independent people. You can't have like the company just paying out a third party. It needs to be a system where you do it because you want to get rid of children and at the end of the day, children should not work. They should go to school if you want to end any poverty. I guess it's quite simple.
[01:05:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:05:59] Miki Mistrati: It starts with school. If you don't have basic school, you don't get out of poverty ever. And that's the first step to take. It's not Cargill telling you are not allowed to use a machete. The funny thing is I've heard people even in the industry saying, "Yeah, but it's not like that difficult. They can help the parents a few hours." But tell me one thing they can do in a cocoa field, which fits to a child. Working with a machete?
[01:06:35] Jordan Harbinger: Well, no.
[01:06:36] Miki Mistrati: Working with pesticides? No. Carrying heavy loads. No. So please just tell me what is it that you think children should do in the fields with the parents, the so-called parents. It's just like we see a lot of explanations instead of solutions. They try to explain every time they get caught by people like me. They try to explain, "Well, it's not that bad. We are doing this, this, and this," but at the end of the day, they don't really do anything to solve the problem.
[01:07:10] What I thought in the beginning that journalism could change the whole thing but I realized it probably can't. I thought that maybe if we had the right laws, that we would be able to change it, but we can't because we have the laws at the moment in the US you actually also have a law against production produced by forced labor. That's actually a law from 1930s, but the law enforcement, the custom and border department doesn't really do anything about it. There are like a few cases I have knowledge of, but the problem is it's, it comes down to the politics you have in your country and are you protecting corporate America or are you protecting basic human rights, in my opinion? And that's a big question.
[01:08:04] Jordan Harbinger: It is a big question, and unfortunately, especially recently, our courts, especially our higher courts, it's sort of the standard operating procedure to protect corporate interests. Whether or not people would agree with that is, there's a debate there, I suppose, but at the end of the day, they're going to usually find a reason to side with a corporate interest versus something that is external to the United States, especially some kind of competing interest. So that's obviously a huge problem. We see that all the time.
[01:08:30] Let's end on a little bit of a hopeful note here. The EU has recently banned products using forced labor. What does that mean? I assume that's partly because of cotton from Xinjiang, China, but tell me what it means for chocolate.
[01:08:42] Miki Mistrati: The thing is, they want to force all the 27 countries in the EU to get rid of any projects they try to sell in the EU market can't be produced by forced labor. That means that for child labor in the cocoa industry, they are going to show a supply chain before they can sell anything in the EU. And that's really a big step. I think it's really like the most positive thing I have been hearing for the past 15 years now. We don't know how they're going to secure this because that's law enforcement in each country. They need to make sure that any companies who want to sell anything in the EU, that the supply chain does not contain any production with forced labor. So I don't know how that's going to work.
[01:09:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:09:42] Miki Mistrati: But I think it's the right step. I'm really satisfied about this. So there are like a few things ongoing, and I know that there is a couple of lawyers in the US who are still filing new cases against the big corporations. And I guess that, of course, they have loads of money to protect themselves, but I don't think that the time right now is for more bad publicity and I think with the climate changes and the lack of human rights and the war in Russia, everything in one big dish, I think we are facing a new way of thinking. If we have to survive a couple of generations anyway, we need to make changes with the climate.
[01:10:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:10:33] Miki Mistrati: That climate change is the big, big threat at the moment. And if we don't do anything, if we don't rethink the way we live. We won't be here. Well, at least your grandchildren won't be here. That's not something I make up. This is, I think, quite common knowledge set by science at the moment. And they're talking about 25 years to 30 years. And so I think there is a kind of understanding that we need to change, and I think this new EU law is in the right direction of what I've just said that change is a need now. And I have to believe that we will do that all together. We need to do something all together. Otherwise, we will burn up in, maybe not hill, but somewhere.
[01:11:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, somewhere right here on Earth. And by the way, I said let's end on a hopeful note. Come on, Miki. That's not what I meant. You got to learn to follow instructions. No, thank you so much for your time. Really enlightening and just an amazing exposé of an industry that a lot of people say, I mean, I'm feeding this stuff to my kids, you know, it's happy. It's those eggs that you open up from Cadbury that have the gross liquid center. I mean it's—
[01:11:52] Miki Mistrati: Exactly, yeah.
[01:11:52] Jordan Harbinger: —it's on Christmas and here it is made by some kid who doesn't get to have any time off and works in a field 12 hours a day. It's just horrible, horrifying.
[01:11:59] Miki Mistrati: But just, as a last note, the good news is we can change this.
[01:12:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:12:04] Miki Mistrati: Why not doing it? Let's just do it together. Of course, we can.
[01:12:08] Jordan Harbinger: Miki Mistrati, thank you so much. We're going to link to your films and things like that that we can find for public consumption there in the show notes, as well as some resources on how to get slave-free chocolate. And I really appreciate your time and your work in this area. It's really, really enlightening.
[01:12:24] Miki Mistrati: Thank you for having me.
[01:12:26] Jordan Harbinger: We've got a preview trailer of our interview with Vince Beiser. It's all about sand. You heard me sand. It's actually quite fascinating. There are even sand mafias killing people over sand.
[01:12:36] Vince Beiser: If anybody had told me three, four years ago that I was going to be spending my every waking hour thinking and talking about sand, I would've just laughed.
[01:12:44] It's actually the most important solid substance on earth. We use about 50 billion tons of sand every year. That's enough to cover the entire state of California, every single year. Every year, we use enough concrete to build a wall, 90 feet high and 90 feet across right the way around the planet at the equator.
[01:13:08] A bunch of sand might get broken off of a mountaintop, washed down into a plain somewhere, and then that sand gets buried under subsequent geological layers, and pushed down under the earth and compressed and turned into sandstone. And then that sandstone may get pushed up again by geologic forces over hundreds of thousands of years and worn away again, and again broken down back into grains. So an individual grain of sand can be millions of years old.
[01:13:39] Jordan Harbinger: We're fully eclipsing the rate of creation here.
[01:13:42] Vince Beiser: You're probably sitting in a building made of just a huge pile of sand. And all the roads connecting all those buildings also made out of sand. The glass, the windows in all those buildings, also made of sand. The microchips that power our computers, our cell phones, all of our other digital goodies, also made from sand. So without sand, there's no modern civilization. And the craziest thing about it is we are starting to run out.
[01:14:10] Jordan Harbinger: For more on why sand is the next petroleum-like resource and some crazy stories about sand pirates and the black market for sand, check out episode 97 with Vince Beiser right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:14:22] Whew! I know this one is a little heavy for those of you, especially those of you just sitting there eating chocolate for lunch like I did after Halloween, a bunch/still am doing, whatever, I lost a bunch of weight. Don't give me any grief.
[01:14:36] A lot of what I did to prep for this episode is in the show notes, a few documentaries in there that you can watch online, including the Chocolate War, which may or may not be available on Amazon yet. I won't say insightful, but it is. But it's also just kind of like, oh man, these poor kids. The kids describe beatings and torture where they get their feet cut with razors and then they pour hot pepper and salt into the wounds, and then they send these kids to work barefoot in a chocolate plantation. Like it's just so awful to think about.
[01:15:02] By the way, after pledging to eradicate child labor, chocolate companies still cannot identify the farms where all their cocoa comes from. They just don't know. It's not only that they're willfully ignoring this problem, they just don't even know where this is coming from, and I think part of that is by design, right? Plausible deniability. Why give yourself the accountability of having to inspect all these different chocolate farms? When you can say, "Oh, we buy our cocoa from a major supplier. We don't know what happens up to that point." And then just, yeah, wash your hands of the whole thing. They have no idea where their cocoa comes from, let alone whether a child labor was used in producing it.
[01:15:36] And I'm talking about Mars, maker of M&M's and Milky Way, they can trace only 24 percent of its cocoa back to farms. Hershey, the maker of Kisses and Reeses less than half their chocolate can be traced back. Nestle can trace back 49 percent of its global cocoa supply to farms. So minimum half is just, just, I'm trying not to make this crappy pun here, just dark chocolate. They don't know where it comes from. There's no way I could avoid that pun. Sorry. They cannot trace it back between 50 and 75 percent, absolutely crazy. You can get a list of model chocolate producers that are doing things right at slavefreechocolate.org. These are places that have sort of done the legwork and finding the right stuff.
[01:16:18] Anyway, some good news here. I had also heard that the kids in the village can't go to school, obviously, because there's a lack of classrooms. There's a lack of resources in the right areas. So I was thinking, all right, if these people are making so little money from farming, surely labor is cheap. Materials are natural. Those are cheap for the most part, right? So maybe we can use the cash generator from this episode to fund building a school in Ghana for those kids. And I know this is a drop in the bucket. It's not going to solve the problem. It's not going to address the greater issue here, but this is about the kids. And the answer is yes, we can do something about this. So I've already put in motion the mechanism here to build a school in Ghana, in an area where cocoa is harvested. And I'm going to be donating the funds for that. I'm just going to take it out of my pocket. I could not be more excited about this.
[01:17:03] So by listening to and sharing The Jordan Harbinger Show, not just this episode, but any episode of the show, you're, hopefully, increasing our sponsorship revenues, which is where I'm going to get the cash to build this school. So, yeah, don't skip those ads, folks. Support our sponsors. Your time and money are going to a good use at least this time. I will also be blowing some of it on beer and sushi, full disclosure, but only after I cut the check for this school in rural Ghana Promise. So I'm stoked for that.
[01:17:31] In fact, once I build this school, I'm not going to do it myself, but once I donate the funds to build this school, I am going to go to Ghana and check it out, and I'm going to dedicate it to my mom, who is a teacher, and I'm going to take her there and, well, I'm going to take my family there too, and we're going to check it out. So, yeah, pretty freaking excited about that. And I hope that we can send some kids to school who otherwise wouldn't be able to go to school. So, yeah, a little bit of good news here. Again, I know it's a drop in the bucket. But it's just something I thought would be awesome to do and it's kind of a dream come true to be able to do something like this. So know that you buying a mattress or some supplements or whatever it is that I am shilling on any given episode, some of that is going to go to this school, so you can pat yourself on the back for that.
[01:18:13] Big thank you to Miki Mistrati. All things Miki and all of the slave-free chocolate links in the documentaries and all that stuff are going to be linked in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts in the show notes. Videos go up on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes for school building purposes or otherwise, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support the show and are by extension supporting kids learning in rural Ghana instead of freaking hidden chocolate pods with a machete all day. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn if you want to say something, hopefully, something nice.
[01:18:48] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same system, software, and tiny habits that I use every single day. It's our Six-Minute Networking course. That course is free. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. Build those relationships before you need them. Many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:19:10] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Hey, remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know a chocoholic or somebody else who might be interested in this subject, please do share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with the people that you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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