Abuse and injustice in Bangladesh’s shrimp industry

16 Jan 2014
More than 400,000 people, mainly women and children, collect shrimp fry and represent the most vulnerable section in the supply chain. Credit: Environmental Justice Foundation/www.ejfoundation.org

More than 400,000 people, mainly women and children, collect shrimp fry and represent the most vulnerable section in the supply chain. Credit: Environmental Justice Foundation/www.ejfoundation.org

The Bangladesh Shrimp industry is plagued with economic, labour and social issues and workers face exploitative working conditions, according to a new report and film by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).

Bangladesh is among the top 10 exporters of shrimp, but the report, Impossibly Cheap: Abuse and Injustice in Bangladesh’s Shrimp Industry, documents examples of hazardous working conditions, the use of child labour, bonded labour, withholding of pay, excessively low wages, health and safety violations, restricted union activities, verbal abuse and excessive hours.

Featuring testimonies recorded during investigations in 2012, the report examines how global demand for a plentiful supply of cheap shrimp has caused rapid expansion of the industry and significant regulatory gaps. The majority of the sector is unregistered and informal and this, coupled with a lack of transparency in the supply chain, allows human rights and labour violations to occur unchecked.

The EJF also says that current legal requirements for imports into the EU and US are concerned with food safety, hygiene and consumer health protection with little consideration of potential labour and human rights abuses in the supply chain of the producer country.

Steve Trent, executive director of EJF, said, “Consumers in Europe and the US should be aware of the hidden cost to the impossibly cheap shrimp we consume that involves the brutal treatment of workers. In the 21st century, food produced by forced or bonded labour should not be on our plates.”

EJF is calling for the strategic and long-term commitment of all shrimp industry stakeholders to bring an end to this abuse and foster the development of socially equitable and environmentally responsible shrimp farming.

To watch the film please click here

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