Socio-economic Issues in Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Supply Chains of Dutch Supermarkets – The Case of Ahold

Poverty wages and excessive working days without a permanent contract and without a trade union that can support you… this is the harsh reality for many working in the fruit and vegetables supply chains of Dutch supermarket chains like Albert Heijn (Ahold). This study shows that although exports of fresh fruits and vegetables for developing countries provide jobs and are an important source of income for many producing countries, working conditions are precarious. Imports of fresh fruit and vegetables from developing countries to the Netherlands are increasing. Throughout the year an abundance of import supplies is available on the shelves of supermarkets, who constitute their most important customers. However, this growth also entails higher risks of violations of labour rights. Whereas there is evidence that supermarkets such as Albert Heijn increasingly are adopting policies to address and contain the risk of these violations, this process has been excessively slow and has had little or no impact to date. Based on field research and literature review, this study discusses and analyses socio-economic conditions in a number of supply chains such as mangos from Peru, pineapples from Costa Rica, bananas from Ecuador, grapes from South Africa, beans, potatoes and grapes from Egypt and tangerines from the Israeli settlements. The findings are discussed from the perspective of supply chain responsibility of retailers and have links to current debates on supermarket buyer power.

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