Seafood firms answer media critics

Seafood firms answer media critics

Workers process chicken meat at Charoen Pokphand Foods plant in Nakhon Ratchasima. Thai seafood firms claim to have installed traceability and auditing systems to monitor the working processes of raw-material suppliers. APICHART JINAKUL
Workers process chicken meat at Charoen Pokphand Foods plant in Nakhon Ratchasima. Thai seafood firms claim to have installed traceability and auditing systems to monitor the working processes of raw-material suppliers. APICHART JINAKUL

Thailand's seafood and food processing businesses have reaffirmed they use only legitimate labour and said their efficient traceability systems can be monitored around the clock.

Apichart Kaewking, vice-president of poultry producer Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc (CPF), said most of the company's 7,000 workers in the production process had been hired under an agreement between the Cambodian and Thai governments.

"Most of them are Cambodians whose hiring contracts and conditions are acknowledged by their own government," he said. "We have used these systems for years and do everything we can to ensure we comply with the law and international standards."

Mr Apichart was speaking at CPF's chicken feed factory in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday during a visit by the Command Center to Combat Illegal Fishing, the government task force on illegal labour. The factory processes 2 million tonnes of chicken a year for export to Japan, the US, Middle East and EU.

Regarding supply chains, he acknowledged it was a major issue for foreign media due to large corporations buying raw materials from illegal fishing operators.

However, the main ingredient in chicken feed is corn, so the media should not focus on chicken feed, Mr Apichart said.

CPF is one of the Thai businesses that have been under attack by foreign media, which have claimed it buys shrimp feed from illegal fishing boats.

However, the company has previously stated it adopted a traceability and auditing system years ago to monitor the working processes of raw-material suppliers.

Another company heavily attacked is Thai Union Group Plc, the world's leading canned tuna producer, with 46,000 workers at its frozen shrimp facility in Samut Sakhon.

President and chief executive Thiraphong Chansiri has expressed frustration, saying the company has done its best to make sure its entire production and supply chains are legitimate and open to observation.

"We make it clear to our suppliers that we have adopted global standards in order to ensure business ethics and codes of conduct are applied throughout the supply chain," he said. "Anyone who doubts this is welcome to observe."

A total of 25 government agencies along with business operators, fishing boat operators and non-governmental organisations have agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding to join together in monitoring practices and fighting against illegal labour in Thailand.

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