Supermarkets Profit from Third World Poverty

Many of the Third World farmers producing food for Britain's supermarkets suffer unacceptably low wages or work in dangerous and degrading conditions, according to a new report from Christian Aid. Publication of the report on October 28 marked the launch of Change the Rules, a major new four-year campaign for a better deal for poor countries.

"More and more of the food and drink we buy in our supermarkets comes from poor countries" says Michael Taylor, Christian Aid's Director. "Christian Aid has traced a wide range of produce back to the countries and farms where they are produced and found that the conditions endured by workers are often unacceptable. We don't want a boycott of the produce we have highlighted or for the big stores to dump certain suppliers. We want them to work with their suppliers to improve conditions, and we know that some are already taking steps in the right direction".

The Global Supermarket details the pay and conditions behind South African fruit, grapes and coffee from Brazil, prawns from Thailand, Peruvian asparagus and pineapples from the Dominican Republic. It argues that supermarkets have the money, the muscle and the mechanisms to guarantee a better deal for Third World producers.

The top ten British supermarkets have an annual turnover equal to the income of the world's poorest 35 countries. Yet an average farmer from a poor country supplying British stores would take over 15 centuries to earn the annual salary of one supermarket executive.

"Our campaign is for all supermarket own-brand products to meet basic standards",says Liz Orton one of the authors of the report. "Food from poor countries already has to meet stringent health-and-safety standards, and we see no reason why the same care and attention should not be paid to the people who produce the food. Christian Aid supporters will be writing the message of our campaign on the back of till receipts and sending them to supermarket managers up and down the country to underline their concern and show the economic muscle behind that concern".

The campaign objectives are for supermarkets to :

  • Adopt a set of ethical principles for their Third World purchasing
  • Implement a code of conduct for all overseas suppliers of own-brand products by the year 2000
  • Agree to independent monitoring of adherence to the code.

Christian Aid can be contacted at :

PO Box 200
London  SE1 7RT