Who picks your tomatoes?

A new report outlines the extensive emploitation of migrant workers in the Italian tomato industry. The report, which is product of a joint collaboration between the ethical trading initiatives in Denmark, Norway and England (IEH, ETI and DIEH), presents a series of tools and recommendations for the food sector.

Italy is the world’s third largest producer of processed tomatoes and is responsible for half of the production within the EU. The export of processed tomatoes reaps approximately 11 billion dkk in annual revenues. However, the crown jewel of Italy’s agriculture is overshadowed by the extensive exploitation of illegal migrant workers who are underpayed and suffer poor working- and living conditions. According to the Italian Ministry of Labour, there are approximately 300.000 migrant workers in the Italian agricultural sector.

Joint effort to combat exploitation
With an export rate of 60 percent for processed tomatoes, the issues with migrant workers has become a matter of international concern. In Denmark, 70 percent of processed tomatoes originate from Italy; consequently, the issue with migrant workers in the Italian tomato industry has developed into something of an achilles heel across the Danish retail sector.

Through international collaboration, DIEH and the retail companies, Coop and Rema1000, have worked to improve conditions for migrant workers in the Italian tomato industry.

“Exploitation of migrant workers is not a new issue. In collaboration with international partners and Danish retail, DIEH not only points to this well-known problem, but also to a series of tools and recommendations that aim to create concrete improvements across the industry for the benefit of the people that pick our tomatoes”- Mette Boye, Director at DIEH, explains.

Improving migrant lives
The recommendations in the report are based on the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. The next step is to ensure that more companies begin to implement the recommendations in order to improve the lives of migrant workers.

Network meeting at DIEH
On the basis of the report, DIEH invites food and retail companies to an open network meeting about migrant labourers in the food industry. The meeting will take place February 10. 2016 at DIEH’s facilities at Christianshavn

Download the report below.

Counteracting exploitation of migrant workers in Italian tomato production