June 21, 2018
New report shows why the planned EU ban on unfair trading practices is urgently needed
Millions of women and men who produce our food are trapped in poverty and face brutal working conditions, despite billion-dollar profits in the food industry, reveals a new report published by Oxfam today.
The report, ‘Ripe for Change’, also assesses the policies and practices of some of the biggest supermarkets in Europe and the United States – all of which score poorly on issues such as the treatment of workers and producers in their food supply chains.
The EU has already taken a first step to end the suffering of those who produce and process our food
The report comes a month after the European Commission proposed a ban on unfair trading practices in the EU, which is currently being discussed by the Parliament and the member states.
Oxfam argues that this legislation is a concrete opportunity for the EU to end the suffering of millions of people who produce the food we buy every day. Without this ban, supermarkets can keep squeezing their suppliers, while workers in Europe and developing countries pay the ultimate price.
Did you know?
- In the EU, just 10 supermarkets account for over half of all food retail sales. Around the world, supermarkets keep an increasing amount of the money their consumers spend – as much as 50 percent in some cases – while the share that reaches workers and food producers has fallen – sometimes to less than 5 percent.
- In Italy, 75 percent of women workers on fruit and vegetable farms said they or a family member had missed meals in the past month, because they couldn’t afford enough food. They are not alone: a five-country survey of workers and small-scale farmers revealed that the majority struggle to feed themselves and their families.
- For many products sold in the EU, the average earning of small-scale farmers who make them is less than half of what they need for a decent standard of living. And the gap between a living income and actual income is greater where women make up most of the workforce.
Injustice has no place on our supermarket shelves
While many workers and smallholder farmers live in poverty, the eight largest publicly-owned supermarket chains generated nearly a trillion dollars in sales, $22 billion in profit, and returned $15 billion to shareholders in 2016. Just 10 percent of what the three biggest supermarkets in the United States returned to shareholders in 2016 would be enough to lift 600,000 Thai shrimp processing workers to a living wage.
“We’ve heard from fruit farmers who have been sprayed with toxic pesticides while in the field and from women who have been forced to take pregnancy tests to work at seafood processing plants,” says Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director. “This injustice should not be on store shelves, especially when the food industry generates billions of dollars and handsomely rewards shareholders and others at the top.”
Low scores for all supermarkets, and across all sectors
The report also assesses the biggest and fastest growing supermarkets in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the U.S on their publicly available supply chain policies and reported practices.
All 16 supermarkets score very low marks across all the issues including the transparency of their supply chains, and the treatment of workers, small-scale farmers and women in those chains. For example, all the supermarkets scored zero on supporting their suppliers to pay decent wages, and only four supermarkets scored above zero on empowering women in their supply chains by, for instance, incentivizing their suppliers to address gender inequalities.
Stand with the people #BehindTheBarcodes
Oxfam is launching a new campaign to urge supermarkets and governments to crack down on inhumane working conditions, increase transparency about where our food comes from, tackle discrimination against women, and ensure a larger share of what consumers spend on food reaches the people who produce it.
The EU has a real chance to do good
Among our demands, we call on European governments and the European Parliament to support recently proposed legislation, which could protect small and medium-sized food suppliers from abuse by large buyers. The EU is one of the world’s largest markets, and we are convinced that a ban of unfair trading practices in the supply chains of retailers active there would change food value chains worldwide.
“Europe has a concrete opportunity to end the suffering of millions of people who produce the food we buy every day,” says Oxfam’s Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns, and head of Oxfam’s EU office, Marissa Ryan said. “An EU ban on unfair trading practices would help get a fairer deal for small farmers and workers who are struggling to make ends meet. The European Parliament and EU governments must now make sure the new legislation has enough ambition and teeth to put an end to these practices for good.”Oxfam International EU Advocacy