Betagro dumps chicken farm over labour abuses

Betagro dumps chicken farm over labour abuses

A worker collects eggs at a chicken farm in Suphan Buri province. Begagro has severed relations with a nearby farm in Lop Buri after charges the owner was mistreating migrant labourers. (Reuters photo via Oxfam)
A worker collects eggs at a chicken farm in Suphan Buri province. Begagro has severed relations with a nearby farm in Lop Buri after charges the owner was mistreating migrant labourers. (Reuters photo via Oxfam)

The food giant Betagro suspended ties Wednesday with a chicken supplier after allegations of exploitation of migrant workers.

The move was the latest in the multi-billion dollar industry's attempts to head off censure from global consumers concerned about human trafficking and human rights' abuses..

Scrutiny has recently turned on Thailand's massive poultry industry, as the country is among the world's top chicken exporters.

Myanmar workers on a farm in central Lop Buri province this week accused bosses of unlawfully low pay and punishing working hours.

The Thammakaset Farm 2 supplied chicken to Betagro Group, one of the biggest Thai food companies, with clients across the world.

On Wednesday, Betagro issued a statement saying it had "stopped business operations with the farm until there is a solution for the labour conflict".

Limited access to isolated farms has long helped shield the chicken industry from prying eyes, according to labour rights defenders.

"The chicken industry needs this scrutiny... This is modern day slavery," said Andy Hall, the prominent British activist on migrant rights, whose group took the complaint from the Lop Buri farm workers.

He said the problems begin with recruitment agencies charging workers steep sums for job placements, leaving them in effective "debt bondage" and vulnerable to further abuse from employers.

The Lop Buri farm case is likely to be the "tip of the iceberg" in the poultry sector, he said, adding it is a sign that Betagro has not properly audited its supply chain.

The rights of Myanmar migrant workers topped the agenda during the visit by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week.

Mrs Suu Kyi pledged to strengthen protections for her countrymen and drive economic changes at home that could pave the way for their return.

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