Research by the charity Oxfam has uncovered a range of human rights abuses on farms linked to major European supermarkets.

The report, entitled “Workers’ Rights in Supermarket Supply Chains: New Evidence on the Need for Action” found evidence of poverty pay, harsh working conditions, gender discrimination and human rights abuses on the farms and plantations that supply tea, fruit and vegetables to supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl and Tesco.

In particular, the research highlights how the relentless drive by retailers to cut costs and maximise profits is fuelling poverty in their supply chains. Women are especially affected as they are often in the lowest paid and most labour-intensive jobs, and regularly face gender-based discrimination and sexual abuse in the workplace.

Researchers found that cholera and typhoid are common in India because workers lack access to toilets and safe drinking water. Half the workers questioned receive ‘Below Poverty Line’ ration cards from the government because wages are so low – despite the fact many women tea pickers regularly clock up 13 hours of backbreaking work a day. Retailers such as Aldi South, Morrisons and Tesco source tea from these estates.

In Brazil, on the other hand, researchers found evidence of widespread poverty among harvest workers on grape, melon and mango farms that supply Lidl and Sainsbury’s and, until recently, Tesco. Workers reported developing allergies and serious skin diseases as a result of working with pesticides and other chemicals without adequate protection.

As a result, Oxfam is calling on the newly elected European Parliament and the incoming European Commission to introduce mandatory human rights due diligence, ensuring that:

  • companies are required to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for negative impacts of their business on the rights of people in their supply chain
  • this requirement applies throughout the company’s global supply chain
  • victims of exploitation and abuse have the right and opportunity to seek redress when companies have failed in their duty to exercise due diligence.


To read the report in full, go to: