ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon Twitter
Agriculture

ASEAN food makers look to correct labor abuses in supply chains

Thai Union pledges monitoring across suppliers' tuna fleets to catch violations

Human rights and environmental activists are stepping up pressure on food producers in Southeast Asia to pursue responsible and sustainable business practices.    © Reuters

TOKYO/BANGKOK/SINGAPORE -- Thai Union has promised to deploy electronic monitoring systems in all of its suppliers' tuna fishing vessels by 2025 to crack down on labor rights violations, a move that could have a far-reaching impact on the industry's business practices.

The world's top producer of canned tuna will use equipment, including cameras, global positioning systems and sensors, that will track working conditions on board as part of the company's commitment to "100% transparency" in its tuna supply chain. 

As Southeast Asia emerges as a key supplier of food for the world, food and agricultural companies in the region are moving to address human rights concerns in their supply chains.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are responsible for about a fifth of global fish catches, more than China, and ASEAN members Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand provide roughly 90% of the world's palm oil.

The fishing industry in particular has been rife with abuse and illegal practices, with immigrant and migrant crews forced to work under inhumane conditions, and monitoring activity out on the water has been a challenge.

The EU threatened to ban seafood imports from Thailand in 2015. While the warning was lifted in 2019, there remains heavy pressure on companies across a range of sectors to clean up their act, with regulators in a number of markets implementing tougher due diligence requirements.

Thai Union has promised to deploy electronic monitoring systems across its tuna supply chain by 2025.

The hope is that the step by Thai Union, which supplies about 20% of the world's canned tuna, can push other seafood companies in the right direction worldwide.

"I look forward to the sustainable future Thai Union... can help create through increased electronic monitoring and transparency throughout the seafood industry," CEO Thiraphong Chansiri said.

Other agricultural companies are taking a more indirect approach, looking to address poor productivity and low incomes that are seen as a root cause of human rights abuses, and improve working conditions in the process.

Palm oil supply chains, for example, are also plagued by exploitation problems. U.S. Customs and Border Protection last year banned the import of palm oil from two major Malaysian producers over concerns about forced labor.

Singapore-based Apical Group, one of Indonesia's largest palm oil producers, and palm plantation manager Asian Agri launched a program this month with Japanese household goods maker Kao to help small local palm farmers improve yields and boost sales. The project aims to support about 5,000 farms by 2030, through dialogue, education and technical guidance.

Southeast Asia's palm oil industry has come under fire over concerns about forced labor.   © Reuters

Olam International, a Singaporean trading company, seeks to increase the yields of cashew suppliers in Vietnam and elsewhere by 50% by 2030, ultimately bolstering farmers' standards of living.

Such initiatives are likely to only increase in importance to help ensure the stability and sustainability of global food markets.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends October 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to Nikkei Asia has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media

Nikkei Asian Review, now known as Nikkei Asia, will be the voice of the Asian Century.

Celebrate our next chapter
Free access for everyone - Sep. 30

Find out more