Below are the latest Box coordinates for the FairfieldNodal project
News Alert: Know Your Supplier (Continued): Humanity United Releases Exhaustive Study on Exploitative Labor Practices in the Global Shrimp IndustryMay 13th, 2013
Today, Humanity United released a study – “Exploitative Labor Practices in the Global Shrimp Industry” – prepared by Accenture that provides in-depth analysis about the characteristics and causes of labor abuse in the shrimp industries of Bangladesh and Thailand. The study explains that at least some of the efficiencies believed to exist with farmed shrimp are due to artificially low labor costs:
“An important factor for the low cost of shrimp is the availability of cheap labor in producer countries. Farming and processing shrimp is particularly labor-intensive, often only feasible in countries where inexpensive labor is readily available. This has led to exploitative labor practices in various parts of the supply chain in export countries.”
Humanity United’s study identifies particular segments of the supply chain in Bangladesh and Thailand that are especially vulnerable to labor abuses. The study concedes that the shrimp industries in these two countries are quite different, but observes that “both industries rely on exploitation of vulnerable and otherwise marginalized populations.”
For Bangladesh, the study focuses on shrimp fry collectors, but also stresses exploitative practices tolerated throughout farmed production. For Thailand, the study emphasizes peeling sheds that house substantial portions of the Thai shrimp processing industry’s labor force. The abuses documented in peeling sheds surprise many experienced participants in the seafood market, as these practices are out of line with the sophisticated Thai shrimp industry that has developed over the last decade. The study notes:
“The sophistications of the Thai industry has allowed Western companies to order highly processed shrimp products directly from Thailand, creating a high demand for migrant laborers to work in factories freezing, packaging, or breading shrimp products. Preprocessing these shrimp – a work-intensive process of peeling by hand – is an underrgulated part of this sophisticated chain. Migrant workers, often trafficked under false pretenses from Burma, are subjected to poor wages, high arbitrary fines, police or employer brutality, and long hours without proper protections.”
Based on extensive research, including an on-the-ground investigation, the study’s authors present an exhaustive account of shrimp production in Thailand. The study observes that although the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA) reports that there are 97 peeling sheds registered by the industry that provide shrimp to Thai exporters, approximately 200 peeling sheds are registered with the Thailand Department of Fisheries, and the TFFA estimates that there are at least an additional 400 unregistered peeling sheds operating in country. The Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) “estimates that the true number of small preprocessing facilities is closer to 2,000.” While the TFFA indicates that the use of unregistered, informal peeling sheds is forbidden within its membership, the study casts doubt on the claim, observing that “a common-sense comparison of the total Thai exported volume of shrimp with the processing capacity of just 97 registered sheds” supports the conclusion that significantly more peeling sheds are involved.
Reviewing the characteristics of the Thai shrimp processing industry generally, the study reports that Thai shrimp factories are “industrial plants with an almost entirely female work force.” These factories “employ a large work force (usually in excess of 3,000 workers), 90 percent of whom are migrants, as Thai people prefer to work in other industries.” Describing the nature of the peeling sheds, the study cites LPN’s finding that “19 percent of the migrant workers in small Thai processing plants are below 15 years of age, while another 22 percent are between 15 and 17.” The study also cites LPN’s estimate that “for roughly 20-30 percent of Burmese migrant workers, the coercive and deceptive means by which they are recruited and retained in exploitative working conditions constitutes trafficking into forced labor.” The peeling sheds employing these workers are difficult to regulate, as “these sheds can easily be closed or relocated with little effort.”
Because Humanity United’s objective is to eliminate slavery from the farmed shrimp supply chain, the study not only provides detailed analysis regarding how and through whom imported shrimp enters the U.S. marketplace, but also provides concrete recommendations as to how to counteract the problem. One of the most powerful recommendations made requests that corporate buyers require registered peeling sheds. Because only 97 peeling sheds are currently registered with TFFA, a “shortage of capacity resulting from this demand would result in registration of previously unknown facilities.”
“Corporate buyers should be able to confirm that their purchases from Thailand are not tainted by exploitative labor. To regulate this, buyer inspectors should demand access to inspect preprocessing plants (i.e. peeling sheds), to speak to workers, and to have access to employment-related records. Inspectors could also ensure that the production capacity of the nominated preprocessing plant correlated with the capacity of the main processing factory. Finally, corporate buyers can demand that the ‘chain of custody’ documentation is complete and reflects all stages of production, including the deheading, peeling, and deveining of shrimp.”
In other words, simply asking a supplier if they are using unregistered peeling sheds is insufficient. Also insufficient are existing certification programs, such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification that do not meaningfully address labor practices. The study observes that the BAP program “includes standards on health and safety, but they largely fail to address other key labor issues.” On most labor issues, the certification standards punt, asking only that the operation abide by domestic laws.
“In the absence of specific standards, these certifications call for national standards and laws to be met, rather than international standards. National labor standards in the developing world, however, often fall short of international standards. Although the need for greater regulation than national standards was the impetus for market-based certification in the first place, these certification schemes were generally designed to ensure product quality, not fair labor practices.
The BAP standards do include additional criteria for working hours and remuneration, but both standards again point to national policies, which are often unclear or unenforced.”
This is particularly problematic in Thailand where, as the study notes in another recommendation, “Thai labor laws do not address the key indicators of forced labor, such as withholding of passports, wage deductions (i.e., penalties,, protective clothing), forced savings, access to workers’ bank accounts, and so on.” The result? According to the study, “This has led to widespread forced-labor practices that cannot be legally challenged.” Thus, adherence to Thai labor rules is insufficient to protect against labor abuses.
Although Humanity United’s study focused on Bangladesh and Thailand, its authors indicate that the labor abuse problems identified are unlikely to be unique to the shrimp industries of just these two countries:
“While production models for shrimp in Bangladesh and Thailand are quite different, exploitative practices are common to both nation’s industries. In looking at the underlying issues that allow and indeed cause exploitation to take place, it is clear the similar practices could be taking place in the other major shrimp-producing countries in Asia and Latin America. While no widespread reports have been commissioned to study industries in China, Ecuador, Indonesia, India, or Vietnam, it does not mean that such practices do not occur. Given the similarities in the comparable basic structures of the supply chains and the inability of developing countries’ governments to regulate appropriate labor standards, it is in fact highly likely that the problems that have been documented in Bangladesh and Thailand are also present in the other primary shrimp-exporting countries.”
Humanity United’s full study is long and an involved read. But it is long because the study is an exhaustive and careful analysis of a problem that merits greater attention. The study’s conclusions matter to the U.S. shrimp industry because they explain, in part, the less-publicized aspects of the “comparative advantage” supposedly held by overseas aquaculture. Labor shortages and increasing wage costs are not unique to foreign producers. But the options available to the U.S. industry and to its foreign competitors to respond to these increased costs are substantially different. If one of those options is abuse of vulnerable populations, it is, again, worth asking what is the true cost of cheap shrimp.
Read “Exploitative Labor Practices in the Global Shrimp Industry” Prepared by Accenture for Humanity United: http://humanityunited.org/pdfs/Accenture_Shrimp_Report.pdf
Read a short description of Accenture’s research in Thailand and conclusions: http://www.no-trafficking.org/docs/seafood/ADP%20Presentation%20for%20UNIAP%20Meeting%20on%20Human%20Trafficking%20in%20the%20Shrimp%20Industry_v1.pdf
Learn more about Humanity United: http://humanityunited.org/
Review documents relating to the SIREN Public-Private Sector Seafood Dialogue on the Thai Seafood Industry (June 2012) available through the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking: http://www.no-trafficking.org/resources_seafood.html
Alabama / Mississippi Shrimp Meetings in
The Southern Shrimp Alliance is holding town hall meetings in AL/MS in May.
TOPICS: State of the domestic shrimp industry.
Executive Director John Williams will present for SSA.
A Question & Answer period will follow the presentation.
The meetings are scheduled for:
1.) Biloxi Meeting
9:00 AM, Monday, May 6, 2013 at the Mississippi State University Research & Extension Center – 1815 Popps Ferry Rd., Biloxi, MS 39532
2.) Bayou La Batre Meeting
1:00 PM, Monday, May 6, 2013 at the Bayou La Batre Community Center
12745 Padgett Switch Road, Bayou La Batre, AL 36509
Contact Rachel Williams (727-934-5090) with questions or for more information.
FISHERMEN’S INPUT – THE VOICE OF THE INDUSTRY
This is an OPEN FORUM with NO TIME LIMITS!
- What do you think needs to be done to improve the shrimp industry?
- What should be our top priorities?
Do you want to be a part of SSA?
Opportunities to get involved:
- Help us organize in your state
- Help distribute news and information in your area
- Represent shrimpers in Wash., DC
- Serve on the Board or a Committee
SHRIMP INDUSTRY ISSUES
a. Electronic Logbook Program
b. Sea Turtles & Skimmer Trawls
c. New Biological Opinion
d. New Penalty Matrix for Non-Compliance of TED regulations
c. Closures due to non-compliance of TED regulations
d. Circumvention of imported shrimp
e. 2013 CDSOA (BYRD) fund distributions
f. Update on Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries (COGSI) Countervailing Duty (CVD) Trade petition.
PLEASE PASS THIS INFORMATION ON!!
POST THIS FLYER WHERE OTHER SHRIMPERS WILL SEE IT.
THESE MEETINGS ARE FOR EVERYONE INTERESTED IN THE SHRIMP
Today the Southern Shrimp Alliance sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to raise alarm over the potential effects and spread of a disease currently devastating shrimp farms in southeast Asia.
Little is known about this disease, described as “Early Mortality Syndrome”, which causes 100 percent mortality in affected shrimp ponds. Only very recently have scientists begun to suspect the disease is caused by bacteria, and virtually nothing is known about how to prevent or treat it.
Of even greater concern, there appears to be little reliable information about the potential adverse implications if this disease finds it way to the US through imports of infected shrimp.
In the letter, SSA’s Executive Director John Williams asks; “what is known about the potential adverse implications for human health from the consumption of raw or cooked shrimp infected with the microbe causing EMS? Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are known to emerge from the persistent and widespread use of veterinary drugs such as has occurred on shrimp farms in these nations. If such implications exist or are as yet unknown, what steps has the US government taken to protect human health?”
Mr. Williams goes on to raise similar questions about the potential for the disease to spread into the wild; damaging shrimp resources and the ecosystem on which they depend. The transmission of diseases from aquaculture operations into the wild has been documented with other species. Finally, the letter also raises concern for the spread of the disease to shrimp farms in the US.
The letter further notes that both Ecuador and Mexico have banned shrimp imports from affected countries for the time being. Given the number of unknowns and the potential implications, SSA trusts the US government to take whatever steps are necessary and appropriate to protect US consumers and businesses.
News Alert: Three Chinese Exporters Excluded from Antidumping Duty Order; Commerce Takes Action against Misrepresentations by another Chinese Exporter in Past Administrative ReviewApril 2nd, 2013
Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that three Chinese shrimp exporters – the Allied Pacific Group; Yelin Enterprise Co. Hong Kong; and Shantou Red Garden Foodstuff Co., Ltd. – were exempted from antidumping duties effective March 22, 2013. The exemption is the result of an appeal made to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the government of the People’s Republic of China. The three Chinese exporters had won significant reductions in Commerce’s original calculations of dumping margins through appeals filed with a federal court before the Chinese government sought review from the WTO.
The significant reduction in the scope of the trade relief granted to the domestic shrimp industry follows similar WTO appeals that have resulted in the elimination of antidumping duties on shrimp imports from Ecuador and the exclusion of two major Thai shrimp exporters from the antidumping duty order on Thai shrimp. These WTO challenges have focused on the methodology used by Commerce to calculate the amount of dumping occurring in the marketplace. Many domestic industries vulnerable to unfair trade have seen vital relief eliminated by WTO rulings. In fact, the Federal Register notice published announcing the exclusion of the three Chinese shrimp exporters also announced Commerce’s intention to exempt a Chinese exporter of diamond sawblades from antidumping duties imposed on that product.
Separately, Commerce informed the Court of International Trade yesterday that it had revisited its determination regarding the appropriate duty rate applied to imported Chinese shrimp. Finding that its original determination was based on multiple misrepresentations made by Hilltop International and its related importer, the Ocean Duke Corporation, Commerce announced its intention to apply an assessment rate of 112.81% on entries of shrimp exported by Hilltop International to the U.S. market between February 2009 and January 2010.
Commerce’s actions are the latest in the agency’s response to information regarding the Ocean Duke Corporation’s importing activities. The Ad Hoc Shrimp Trade Action Committee (AHSTAC) made Commerce aware of the factual record developed in a criminal prosecution regarding mislabeled fish fillets. The evidence in that unrelated criminal case demonstrated that inaccurate information had been provided to Commerce by Ocean Duke and its foreign exporter affiliates in antidumping duty proceedings conducted by the agency. In response to this evidence – particularly information regarding an undisclosed affiliate that had exported substantial quantities of shrimp from Cambodia after the imposition of antidumping duties – Ocean Duke and Hilltop International made representations that Commerce later proved to be inaccurate.
The final assessment of antidumping duties on imports of shrimp from Hilltop International between February 2008 and January 2010 had been delayed by challenges filed by AHSTAC in federal court. Because the assessment of duties has not yet occurred on these imports, Commerce has sought permission from the federal courts to re-evaluate prior determinations and address any fraud that may have taken place during the course of past administrative reviews.
Read the March 28, 2013 Federal Register Notice announcing that three Chinese exporters will now be exempt from antidumping duties: http://www.shrimpalliance.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/PRC-Shrimp-WTO-129-Final-Determination-Fed-Reg-Notice.pdf
Read the U.S. Department of Commerce’s final remand determination filed with the U.S. Court of International Trade regarding imports of Chinese shrimp from Hilltop International between February 2009 and January 2010: