THAILAND - Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) has been against slavery and forced labour, the company said on Saturday in response to allegations in the British media linking it to modern day slavery of prawn farming and forced labour on some Thai fishing boats.
"CPF unequivocally denounces slavery and forced labour. Since April 2013, we have tried our best to actively audit our entire supply chain. We have stopped business with all vendors found to violate our CSR and ethical policy," said Adirek Sripratak, CPF president and chief executive officer.
"We also have been working closely with the Department of Fisheries and eight Thai seafood and fishing associations to stop all use of illegal labour. CPF strictly complies with Thailand's labour laws and international labour laws," he added.
CPF is a leading shrimpfarming and shrimpfeed producing company.
The UKbased Guardian newspaper reported recently that its investigation established that CPF feeds the prawns that it exports to the United Kingdom and the United States with fishmeal sourced from "ghost ships" manned with slaves.
In response to the Guardian article on the supply chain for prawns in Thailand, Frenchbased Carrefour last Thursday announced on its website that it has decided to immediately suspend its purchases from CPF "until light has been shed on the situation".
Carrefour did not specify CPF by name, describing it only as "a Thai company".
CPF said in a statement released on Saturday that it was "in the process of clarifying the situation with the supermarket chain". The Thai firm's export to Carrefour was US$4 million in 2013, accounting for only 0.03 per cent of its total revenue of US$12 billion last year, according to CPF.
CPF said in its statement that since April 2013, it has "paid premium prices to buy fishmeal and compensate fishmeal producers at higher costs related to certifying the whole supply chain all the way back to the fishing boats".
Fishmeal is an ingredient used in the production of shrimp feed.
"CPF has engaged IFFO, the world's leading NGO in regards to fishmeal and fish oil, to audit and certify its seafood supply chain. Within June 2014, a CPF shrimp feed site will become the first feedmill in Asia to be certified IFFO RS Chain of Custody," Adirek said.
IFFO, which stands for International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation, represents and promotes the fishmeal, fish oil and wider marine ingredients industry worldwide.