Where is tobacco produced with forced labor?
According to the United States Department of Labor (2010) tobacco is among the agricultural goods most commonly produced with child or forced labor. The U.S. Department of Labor lists tobacco as being produced with forced labor in Malawi and Kazakhstan and with child labor in Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Malawi, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Tobacco Production and Supply Chain
After harvesting, tobacco is cured by air, fire or sun. At factories, leaves are cleaned, de-stemmed and aged, after which flavor may be added. Tobacco is then rolled into cigarettes, which may have filters added.
Forced labor is most likely to take place at the harvest stage. In addition to forced labor in tobacco harvesting, forced and child labor may occur in the cigarette production process in India. The World Health Organization (2001) reported some 325,000 children working in rolling tobacco, and estimated that 50 percent are bonded laborers.
Tobacco is produced and consumed world-wide. “The major producers are China, India, Brazil, the U.S., Turkey, Zimbabwe and Malawi, which together produce over 80 percent of the world's tobacco. China alone accounts for over 35 percent of world production” (Food and Agriculture Organization 2010). The largest importers are Russia and the U.S., with the U.S. importing approximately the same amount of tobacco that it exports (World Trade Organization).
How does forced labor in tobacco affect me?
The most common uses of tobacco are for cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff.
What does forced labor in tobacco harvesting look like?
The nature of forced labor in tobacco growing varies from region to region. For example, in Kazakhstan Human Rights Watch (HRW 2010) has identified instances of forced labor “in which employers confiscated migrant workers’ passports and in some cases required them to perform other work without pay or compensation in addition to tobacco farming.” Workers are paid at the end of the harvest season, meaning that workers must tolerate working conditions employers provide or forfeit their compensation. While the study by HRW was not a sector-wide survey and the full scope of forced labor remains unclear, it does indicate wide-spread abuses among tobacco farmers. Human Rights Watch also pointed out that Phillip Morris, the maker of Marlboro, is the principle buyer of tobacco in Kazakhstan.
In Malawi, forced labor occurs in the context of tenant farming in which families make agreements with landowners whereby they receive a portion of the profit from the tobacco harvest in exchange for labor in growing and harvesting the crop (Eldring et al. 200). Tenants are generally expected to pay for seeds and other expenses. Because this system rarely results in profit for the tenants, they remain in a situation of debt bondage (International Trade Union Confederation 2010). Additionally, families are expected to have their children participate in the harvest from a young age, exposing them to dangerous levels of nicotine.
Where can I learn more?
Duke University. “Cigarette Manufacturing” n.d. http://www.soc.duke.edu/~s142tm12/cigarette_manufacturing.htm
FAO. “Higher world tobacco use expected by 2010 - growth rate slowing down - Number of smokers growing - Production shifting to developing countries.” January 4, 2010. http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/news/2003/26919-en.html
Human Rights Watch. Hellish Work: Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Kazakhstan. July 14, 2010. http://www.hrw.org/en/node/91458/section/2
Eldring, Line, Sabata Nakanyane, and Malehoko Tshoaedi, “Child labor in the tobacco growing sector in Africa” Fafo. October 2000. http://www.fafo.no/pub/rapp/654/654.pdf
International Trade Union Confederation. Internationally Recognized Core Labor Standards in Malawi Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Malawi. June 2010. http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/Microsoft_Word_-_28_May_-_Malawi_CLS_FINAL__2_-20100531120125.pdf
United States Department of Labor. 2010 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. December 2010. http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/pdf/2010TVPRA.pdf
World Health Organization. Tobacco and the Rights of the Child. 2001. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2001/WHO_NMH_TFI_01.3_Rev.1.pdf
World Trade Organization. Tobacco Atlas: Tobacco Companies n.d. http://www.who.int/tobacco/statistics/tobacco_atlas/en/
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