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Cargill registers concern with palm oil supplier about child labour allegations

By Caroline Scott-Thomas+

01-Aug-2013
Last updated the 01-Aug-2013 at 10:53 GMT

Cargill concerned about palm oil child labour allegations

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has accused Cargill of using child labour in its palm oil supply chain – and Cargill says it has registered its concern with supplier KLK.

RAN, along with Indonesian advocacy group Sawit Watch, claims that it has found evidence of“abusive recruitment and labour practices and child labour”on palm oil plantations in Indonesia, particularly those of major palm oil supplier Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK). According to RAN, Cargill received“at least 31 shipments of palm oil from KLK, totalling more than 61m pounds”over the past three years, with which it supplied several major food companies.

"Although KLK promised at the 2010 RSPO [Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil] meeting to improve its labour practices and recruitment standards, the reality in the field shows otherwise,”said Fatilda Hasibuan, a labour and human rights lawyer working for Sawit Watch.“In July 2013, Sawit Watch and a local partner found children working inside a KLK plantation. With the international community watching, KLK needs to stop its irresponsible labour practices immediately."

In an emailed statement, Cargill said it monitored the activities of all its palm oil suppliers and took the allegation of labour violations very seriously.

“We have contacted KLK regarding these allegations to seek clarification and to register our concern,”it said.“We have also been in touch with the RSPO; at present it has not received any formal complaint but it is considering whether any action is necessary.”

“…If it is confirmed that KLK is breaking local laws or contravening the RSPO Criteria then we will take action.”

Robin Averbeck, a forest campaigner with RAN said: “The bottom line is Cargill needs to clean up its supply chain to ensure its palm oil aligns with the values of its customers.” 
This is not the first time Cargill has faced allegations of unethical practices in its supply chain from RAN. In November, RAN said only a small fraction of Cargill’s palm oil was from its own plantations and raised questions about the practices of its other suppliers. Cargill has pledged to source 100% of its palm oil for developed markets from RSPO-certified sources by 2015, and globally by 2020.