CP Foods says it is auditing its entire shrimp chain to ensure it is slavery free, and has been addressing the problem for the past 12 months.
The food and feed subsidiary of Thai conglomerate, Charoen Pokphand Group, was reacting to a report in the Guardian on Tuesday this week alleging slavery in Thailand’s shrimp sector.
Men who have fled enslavement on boats supplying the Thai shrimp industry told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings.
The UK newspaper says slave ships catch huge quantities of ‘trash fish’, which, on being landed, go to factories where the fish is ground down into fishmeal for onward sale to CP Foods and other shrimp producers.
And CPF admits that slave labor is part of its supply chain.
“The issue of endemic slavery in Thailand’s seafood supply chain affects all producers in Thailand as they all use by-catch to produce their fishmeal in the same way.
As purchasers of fishmeal, CP Foods has been actively working to solve this problem since April 2013 and will continue to do so.
We are now in the process of auditing our entire operation so that we can introduce an independent spot-check system across our supply chain to ensure it is and continues to be slavery free,” said the Thailand-headquartered group on Tuesday.
Thailand is the world's largest shrimp exporter, shipping out around 500,000 tons of shrimp every year – nearly 10% of which is farmed by CP Foods alone.
The UN and non-governmental organizations have raised the flag on forced labor in the Thai fishing industry before but the Guardian says its report reveals for the first time the link between the slave ships and shrimp producers and retailers.
Illegal, unregulated and uncertified fishing
Bob Miller, CPF UK managing director, told the Guardian: "We know there are issues with regard to the [raw] material that comes in [to port], but to what extent that is, we just don't have visibility."
The Thai group said it currently uses fishmeal as a minor component in the production of fish feed at its feed mills.
This fishmeal, said CPF, is produced by independent suppliers from a combination of by-catch, sometimes described as ‘trash fish’, or fish by-product caught around the seas of Thailand.
“Fishmeal attracts controversy because it can be produced using by-catch that is sometimes caught as a result of illegal, unregulated and uncertified fishing (IUU),” added CPF.
The company said it is aiming to tighten the control of its fishmeal procurement and, thereby, help to clamp down on IUU fishing.
CFP said its goal is to ensure at least 50% of the supply comes from certified fisheries by next year.
By 2017, it is aiming to have zero use of fishmeal produced from ‘trash fish’ and, by 2021, it wants to completely eliminate the use of fishmeal in its shrimp feed.