As a result of climate change, European citrus importers apparently depend for an increased period of the year on middle-income-country Egypt as country of origin. Again, from preparatory work, we had found that the citrus suppliers involved were fully compliant with trade requirements, including social standards. As a matter of fact, the largest one regularly supplies some 30 retailers for which it had 17 international accreditations.
As soon as we scratched a little bit below that surface, we found a shady structure for outsourcing temporary harvesting work through labour brokers. This practise of outsourcing implied that contract and labour conditions were not monitored, and this harvesting work was not in scope of inspections or audits. So, another limitation of social compliance mechanisms that usually goes unknown, got revealed. And again, we concluded that it is time to move beyond compliance. Impact assessments tend to focus on adverse or negative impact only. Yet, we assessed the positive impact on people, communities and natural environment as well.
Producing citrus on reclaimed desert land applying sophisticated irrigation systems and generating a good deal of employment for skilled and unskilled workers, provides considerable positive impact. We took this into account in our evaluation. Of course, this is never an excuse not to address the (potential) negative impact, such as the use of labour brokers for temporary work. My co-consultant put a practical idea on the table around a virtual labour market between farms & packhouses, agricultural schools and labour offices in the region. Moving beyond compliance, we may need to develop and test alternatives applying modern technology more often. Egyptian citrus suppliers are ready for it!
See our report to learn more here.
by Rogier Verschoor – Impact Consultant