Strawberries

Countries Where Strawberries are Reportedly Produced with Forced Labor and/or Child Labor

Strawberry Commodity Risk Map

Strawberries are reportedly produced with forced labor (FL) and/or child labor (CL) in the following countries:

Burma (FL)
Argentina (CL)

Top ten countries that produce strawberries worldwide (FAOSTAT 2017):

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. Mexico
  4. Egypt
  5. Turkey
  6. Spain
  7. South Korea
  8. Poland
  9. Russia
  10. Morocco

Top ten countries that export berries (including strawberries) worldwide (UN Comtrade 2018):[1]

  1. Spain
  2. Thailand
  3. New Zealand
  4. Netherlands
  5. US
  6. Mexico
  7. Chile
  8. Vietnam
  9. Peru
  10. Belgium

[1] International Trade Center (ITC Calculations based on UNCOMTRADE Statistics). http://www.intracen.org/

Top ten countries that import berries (including strawberries) (UN Comtrade 2018):[2]

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Germany
  4. Netherlands
  5. Canada
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Vietnam
  8. Hong Kong, China
  9. France
  10. Spain

[2] International Trade Center (ITC Calculations based on UNCOMTRADE Statistics). http://www.intracen.org/

Where are strawberries reportedly produced with trafficking and/or child labor?

According to the U.S. Department of State 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, strawberries are produced with forced labor in Burma.[1] According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2018 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor, strawberries are produced with child labor in Argentina.[2] Burma is listed as a Tier 3 country by the U.S. Department of State 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report. Argentina is listed as a Tier 1 country.[3]

__________

[1]U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2019. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf

[2] U.S. Department of Labor. 2018 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. 2018.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods

[3] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2019. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf

What does trafficking and/or child labor look like in the production of strawberries?

According to the U.S. Department of State 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, members of Burma’s Shan, Burman, and Thai Yai ethnic groups are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in seasonal strawberry harvesting in Burma. Men, women, and children at the greatest risk of trafficking include those from mostly ethnic minority areas, including over 107,000 persons displaced by conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states, and at least 15,000 displaced persons in the Rakhine state. The large number of Burmese, approximately one quarter of the population, who do not have access to citizenship or identification documents, engenders trafficking vulnerabilities disproportionately affecting ethnic minority groups.[1] Abusive working conditions and sexual exploitation are present on strawberry farms in Spain. Significant numbers of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa have been noted in Spain’s agricultural sector, including in the production of strawberries.[2] While cases of human trafficking have not been authoritatively documented among this migrant worker population, the debt they may owe to the smugglers who facilitated their migration may increase their vulnerability. There is also anecdotal reporting that some employers may make deceptive promises about securing legal documentation.[3] Since the signing of a bilateral contract in 2001, thousands of Moroccan women have worked seasonally from April to June to cultivate and harvest strawberries in Spain. According to a 2019 New York Times report, these Moroccan women work on isolated farms deprived of resources and are forced to endure sexual abuse, including rape, by their bosses who threaten them if they resist.[4] Abusive labor conditions on these farms include working long hours without breaks for less pay than was promised and living in inhumane conditions on the farms. In May 2018, several Moroccan women working on a strawberry farm near Almonte, Spain filed lawsuits due to these abuses. Similar reports of sexual exploitation on strawberry farms in Spain were documented in 2010 by El País.[5] According to a 2017 Reuters report, Europe’s top human rights court accused Greece of failing to protect migrant agricultural workers who had been subjected to forced labor and shot at by security guards when protesting over unpaid wages in 2013. This investigation found that Bangladeshi strawberry harvesters, some in their early teens, had been forced to work 12-hour days while supervised by armed guards and lived in makeshift huts without toilets or running water.[6] These workers had gone unpaid for seven months before their protest.[7] The majority of migrants who work in Greece are employed illegally, and over 40 percent of Greece’s undocumented workers are migrants.[8] The U.S. Department of State 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report noted that Greece had indeed failed to defend these Bangladeshi migrant workers from forced labor, citing the European Court of Human Rights’ verdict.[9]  Mexican berry pickers have reported wage theft, sexual harassment, and poor working and living conditions.[10] According to a 2015 Reuters report, Mexican strawberry harvesters on a farm in San Quintin in Baja California state, Mexico live in cardboard shacks, regularly work over 50 hours per week, and earn as low as one to two USD per hour. Harvesters reported that the fields are fumigated with pesticides as they are nearby picking fruit, leading to health problems for workers.[11] There are reports of workers in San Quintin being pressured to work seven days a week during the harvest. At one berry-producing company, if workers take Sunday off, they are docked 13-20 USD and are not allowed to return to work until the following Wednesday.[12]

In the United States, particularly southern California, Mexican strawberry workers often work up to 13 hours a day in health-hazardous conditions.[13] A 2016 report by The Guardian describes California strawberry pickers working in fields with toxic pesticides and chemicals that cause dizziness and vomiting and being forced to squat and crouch for many hours at a time, without lunch and rest breaks, leading to illness and injuries among workers.[14]

 Child laborers who work in the agricultural sector of Argentina harvest blueberries, grapes, and strawberries, among other crops.[15] Children working in the agricultural sector may be exposed to harmful pesticides and long work days.[16] According to Lucrecia Teixidó at the University of Buenos Aires, children are preferred as harvesters because their small hands do not leave marks on the fruit.[17] According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, Bolivian children and children of Bolivian immigrants in Argentina engage in child labor in agriculture.[18] Mexico, which accounts for 95 percent of United States imports of strawberries,[19] has high rates of child labor in agriculture,[20] although there is limited evidence linking child labor directly to strawberries specifically.[21] There are anecdotal accounts of child labor and exploitation, as well as indicators of forced labor, in strawberry harvesting in the United States.[22] Strawberry harvesting in the U.S.is highly dependent on migrant workers due to the time sensitive nature of the harvest.[23] Children of migrant workers may accompany their parents to the fields, particularly when they are not enrolled in school. Further, strawberry harvesters are often paid a piece-rate wage, which means that slower workers may struggle to make minimum wage. Children may work in strawberry harvesting to augment family income.[24] Berry workers in Washington state, often migrant workers, have been attempting to unionize in order to increase wages, improve sub-standard and cramped housing conditions, and prevent wage theft, which is reportedly common.[25]

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[1] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2019. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf

[2] Browne, David. African migrants survive in ‘The Cemetery’ to work in the fields and greenhouses of Andalucía. March 2, 2019. https://www.equaltimes.org/african-migrants-survive-in-the#.XYopxChKhPY

[3] Gorney, Cynthia. Nathional Geographic. African Migrants in Europe Trade One Hardship for Another. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/06/african-migrants-in-europe-trade-one-hardship-for-another-feature/

[4] Aida Alami. NY Times. “Workers in Spain’s Strawberry Fields Speak Out on Abuse.” July 20, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/20/world/europe/spain-strawberry-fields-abuse.html

[5] Jerónimo Andreu. El País. “Víctimas Del oro rojo.” https://elpais.com/diario/2010/06/13/domingo/1276401156_850215.html

[6] Reuters. “European rights court condemns Greece over migrant “forced labor”. March 20, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-greece-court-migrants-idUSKBN17120B.

Amnesty International. “Greece: Despair pervades camps after 33 migrant workers shot in Manolada”. 2013. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/04/greece-despair-pervades-camps-after-33-migrant-workers-shot-in-manolada/.

[7] Amnesty International. “Greece: Despair pervades camps after 33 migrant workers shot in Manolada”. 2013. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/04/greece-despair-pervades-camps-after-33-migrant-workers-shot-in-manolada/.

[8] Reuters. “European rights court condemns Greece over migrant “forced labor”. March 20, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-greece-court-migrants-idUSKBN17120B.

[9] U.S. Department of State. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2017. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/271339.pdf

[10] Yu Hsi Lee, Esther. “Berry Farmworkers Toil 12 Hours A Day For $6. Now They’re Demanding A Raise.” Think Progress. April 1, 2016. https://thinkprogress.org/berry-farmworkers-toil-12-hours-a-day-for-6-now-theyre-demanding-a-raise-ea4f5800caf8/

Indy Bay. “Boycott Driscoll’s Action in Watsonville.” January 4, 2016. https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/01/04/18781500.php

[11] Edgard Garrido and Lizbeth Diaz. Reuters. “Picking strawberries in Mexico for U.S. tables leaves workers asking for more.” May 16, 2015. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-farms-widerimage/picking-strawberries-in-mexico-for-u-s-tables-leaves-workers-asking-for-more-idUSKBN0O00X720150517.

[12] Marosi, Richard. Los Angeles Times. “Mexican farmworkers target Driscoll’s, a firm with labor-friendly image. April 10, 2015. https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-baja-farmworkers-20150411-story.html.

[13] Carroll, Rory. The Guardian. “Fruits of labor: sunny California is no paradise for farm workers”. August 15, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/15/california-farms-pick-your-own-fruit-vegetables-working-conditions-jobs

[14] Yu His Lee, Esther. Think Progress. April 1, 2016. https://thinkprogress.org/berry-farmworkers-toil-12-hours-a-day-for-6-now-theyre-demanding-a-raise-ea4f5800caf8/.

Carroll, Rory. The Guardian. “Fruits of labor: sunny California is no paradise for farm workers”. August 15, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/15/california-farms-pick-your-own-fruit-vegetables-working-conditions-jobs

[15] U.S. Department of Labor. 2018 Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor. 2018. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/argentina.

[16] National Center for Farmworker Health. Child Labor in Agriculture. 2018. http://www.ncfh.org/uploads/3/8/6/8/38685499/fs-child_labor2018.pdf.

[17] Lombana, Jahir. “Argentina: More Efficient Policies to Fight against Child Labour.”  Fresh Plaza. July 17, 2007. http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=4769

[18] U.S. Department of Labor. 2018 Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor. 2018. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/argentina.

[19] Hee Suh, Guan, Khachatryan. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review (IFAMA). “The impact of Mexican competition on the U.S. strawberry industry.” https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/abs/10.22434/IFAMR2016.0075.

[20] NorteSur, Frontera. “UN Official Slams Child Labor in Mexico.” Media Watch. May 3, 2007. http://www.mexidata.info/id1281.html

Boriss, Hayley, Henrich Brunke and Marcia Kreith. Commodity Strawberry Profile. Agricultural Issues Center, University of California. March 2006 (Updated in 2014 by Naeve, Linda). http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fruits/strawberries/commodity-strawberry-profile/

[21] Marosi, Richard. “In Mexico’s Fields, Children Toil to Harvest Crops that Make it to America’s Tables. Los Angeles Times. December 14, 2014.  http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-children/

[22] Patel, Avni. “Who’s Picking Your Berries: Feds Find Young Children on Strawberry Farms.” ABC News. August 11, 2011.  http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/feds-find-young-children-working-strawberry-farms/story?id=14281166

Gonzales, John Moreno.“FBI Probes Treatment of Mexican Workers in LA.” The San Francisco Chronicle. 10 December 2008. As cited in Verité. Help Wanted. Immigrant Workers in US Agriculture: The Role of Labor Brokers in Vulnerability to Forced Labor. June 2010. https://www.verite.org/sites/default/files/images/HELP%20WANTED_A%20Verite%CC%81%20Report_Migrant%20Workers%20in%20the%20United%20States.pdf

Yu Hsi Lee, Esther. “Berry Farmworkers Toil 12 Hours A Day For $6. Now They’re Demanding A Raise.” Think Progress. April 1, 2016. https://thinkprogress.org/berry-farmworkers-toil-12-hours-a-day-for-6-now-theyre-demanding-a-raise-ea4f5800caf8/

Indy Bay. “Boycott Driscoll’s Action in Watsonville.” January 4, 2016. https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/01/04/18781500.php

[23] Whitaker, Bill. “Farmer Says His Strawberry Harvest Depends on Immigration Bill.” CBS News. April 11, 2013. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/farmer-says-his-strawberry-harvest-depends-on-immigration-bill/

[24] Patel, Avni. “Who’s Picking Your Berries: Feds Find Young Children on Strawberry Farms.” ABC News. August 11, 2011.  http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/feds-find-young-children-working-strawberry-farms/story?id=14281166

[25] Yu Hsi Lee, Esther. “Berry Farmworkers Toil 12 Hours A Day For $6. Now They’re Demanding A Raise.” Think Progress. April 1, 2016. https://thinkprogress.org/berry-farmworkers-toil-12-hours-a-day-for-6-now-theyre-demanding-a-raise-ea4f5800caf8/

Strawberries Production and Supply Chain

After harvesting, strawberries are either frozen or shipped directly to companies, who further process the berries or deliver them as-is to retailers, restaurants, institutions, or other organizations. If the strawberries are processed, they are made into syrups, jams, and juices.[1]

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[1] Community Food Security Coalition. Leveraging Institutional Dollars for a Just and Healthy Food System – Strawberry Supply Chain.  June 28, 2013.

How do Trafficking and/or Child Labor in Strawberries Production Affect Me?

A worker walks through a strawberry farm

Strawberries are the fifth most consumed fresh fruit in the United States.[1] In 2018, the United States was one of the largest importers of fresh strawberries, with imports climbing from 449 million USD in 2013 to 762 million USD in 2018.[2]

Global strawberry production increased by 13 percent in recent years to 4,516,810 tons.[3]

__________

[1] Boriss, Hayley, Henrich Brunke and Marcia Kreith. Commodity Strawberry Profile. Agricultural Issues Center, University of California. March 2006 (Updated in 2014 by Naeve, Linda).

http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fruits/strawberries/commodity-strawberry-profile/

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Oranges and apples are America’s top fruit choices. 2014. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/gallery/chart-detail/?chartId=58322

[2] Karst, Tom. The Packer. March 22, 2019. https://www.thepacker.com/article/us-strawberry-imports-rise.

[3] Horti Daily. “Argentina: Strawberry production increased by 13% in the last five years.” May 10, 2017. http://www.hortidaily.com/article/34192/Argentina-Strawberry-production-increased-by-13-procent-in-the-last-five-years

EXAMPLES

What Governments, Corporations, and Others are Doing

The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2018 that Argentina’s Universal Child Allowance Program has been successful in reducing child labor.[1]

In the United States, the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) a partnership of farmworker groups, businesses, and social justice organizations established in 2015, has developed labor standards and training programs to improve working conditions and produce safer food.[2] EFI also offers a certification for some products, including strawberries and is certifying Optimal Berry Group, a berry cooperative and exporter in Mexico.[3]

__________

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. 2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Argentina. 2018. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/argentina

[2] American Public Health Association. Improving Working Conditions for U.S. Farmworkers and Food Production Workers. November 7, 2017. https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2018/01/18/improving-working-conditions.

[3] GoodFarmsTM brand packaging displays EFI’s ‘Responsibly Grown. Farmworker Assured’TM trustmark. 2016. https://equitablefood.org/latest-news/costco-stocks-goodfarms-blueberries-strawberries-and-organic-strawberries-from-equitable-food-initiative-certified-farms/

Optimal Berry: Redefining a Strawberry Legacy. March 2019. https://equitablefood.org/latest-news/optimal-berry-redefining-a-strawberry-legacy/

LEARN MORE

  • Read the LA Times’ investigation into labor violations in the Mexican agricultural sector.
  • Read an article on the abuse of workers in Spain’s strawberry fields.
  • Read an article on the conditions of strawberry picking in Mexico.