The trade body for Italian processed tomatoes has emphasised its commitment to fighting illegal gangmasters and worker exploitation following a report claiming the issue is still widespread.
ANICAV, which represents two thirds of the processed tomato industry in Italy, said it wants to reassure consumers about the industry’s commitment to reducing exploitation, and will fight any "malicious attempt" to discredit the industry's ethical standards.
The body said it has “always stood on the frontline” against the use of illegal labour, and has worked to include stakeholders across the supply chain in the issue.
“We have always stood on the frontline against the use of illegal labour for tomato harvesting. Over the years, we have involved businesses, the Agricultural Trade Unions, Institutions and the major retail chains in our fight,” said ANICAV chairman, Antonio Ferraioli.
The report, published by the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) earlier this month, exposed the extent of the illegal gangmaster problem in Italy, ANICAV said. According to the report, British retailers are particularly affected as Italian tomatoes account for 60 per cent of processed tomatoes sold in the UK. It urged all retailers and other importers of Italian tomatoes to "urgently map" their supply chains and enforce ethical standards for workers.
ANICAV said it had contributed data to the report, and aside from some inaccuracies highlighted during its presentation, made suggestions as to how to solve the issue, including encouraging ethical certification of tomato processing businesses.
“The report data confirms the correctness of our proposal for the ethical certification of tomato processing agricultural and industrial businesses,” said Ferraioli.
“For some time in fact ANICAV has worked on two fronts: the education of all parties involved, through the sharing of the problem across the various representation levels and joint planning with the National and Regional Institutions.”
The body also claimed that “print media attacks” about the ethical standards in Italian tomato processing has “significantly impacted” the business, and said it had called on the Italian government for more protection.
“The print media attacks in recent times against the tomato processing sector have significantly impacted our businesses and the entire chain, with a consequent loss of competitiveness internationally,” said ANICAV director, Giovanni De Angelis.
“We need to combat all types of uninformed opinion: attacking our products to 'bridge' the quality gap is far from 'ethical'. Italian tomatoes are a symbol of the Made in Italy brand worldwide, whose quality is universally recognised.
“We will fight in all quarters any malicious attempt to discredit our work which has always ensured quality, respect for the environment, safety and legality. We have therefore firmly requested the support of the Italian government to protect our image and our sector.”