Thai company Charoen Pokphand Group, a major food conglomerate involved in the produce breeding, processing and grocery sectors, is under fire following allegations that its seafood supply chain is linked to illegal labour practices.
As with the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe, the scandal looks set to cast doubt over the integrity of international food retail supply chains as well as the CSR programmes that suppliers involved in the grocery trade are nowadays so keen to publicise.
A six-month investigation by the Guardian revealed that CP Group's Thai-based subsidiary CP Foods buys fishmeal to feed its farmed prawns from suppliers linked to Thai fishing boats that are allegedly manned with slaves.
CP Foods released a statement Wednesday saying it denounced slavery and will use its commercial weight to influence the Thai government to act on the matter, rather than walking away from the country's fishing industry.
CP Foods distributes, both directly and indirectly, to major retailers including Walmart, Carrefour, CostCo, Tesco and Aldi, who have been quick to distance themselves from the allegations, condemning slavery and announcing social audits. Carrefour has condemned the allegations, releasing a statement that said: “As a precautionary measure, Carrefour has decided to immediately suspend its direct or indirect purchases from this company until light has been shed on the situation.”
As the US prepares its 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, the Guardian reported that the US may downgrade Thailand’s ranking to tier three, setting it alongside North Korea and Saudi Arabia for apparently failing to address human trafficking issues. Such a move would potentially lead to restrictions on foreign aid from the US and the World Bank.
CP Foods is a subsidiary of CP Group, an agribusiness conglomerate that operates Siam Makro stores in Thailand as well as Lotus SuperCenters in China.
The group's Chia Tai unit is involved in the research, development and supply of vegetable and flower seeds.
In 2012, CP Foods opened a Melbourne office, supplying frozen foods to Woolworths, CostCo, 7-Eleven and some IGA stores.