Did you know that some fishermen in Southeast Asia report working at sea for up to 14 hours a day and 27 days a month, earning as little as $0.50 per hour? That workers on tropical fruit farms in Costa Rica say that highly toxic agrochemicals are being sprayed while they are still in the fields?
Whether it is fished or farmed, sold in local markets or stocked on supermarket shelves, too much of the food we buy is produced at the expense of human welfare.
All around the world, millions of small-scale farmers, fishers and workers who grow, catch and process our food are being forced into lives of hardship and suffering. In a global food industry worth trillions of dollars, far too many of them have to work long hours in inhumane conditions for little reward.
Women pay the highest price
As is often the case, the burden of this injustice falls more heavily on women. They do most of the lowest paid and least secure jobs, and face discrimination over pay and conditions with little recognition of their rights. Women food workers and farmers can face threats of harassment and violence, inadequate maternity cover, and compulsory pregnancy tests.
These conditions keep people trapped in poverty – and it is getting worse. As corporate food giants exercise more power over our food supply, an increasingly small portion of the money we pay for our food actually reaches hard-working farmers, fishers and workers at the start of the chain - in many cases, less than 10 percent.
The burden of injustice in the food industry: 5 shocking numbers
For products like Ecuadorian bananas, Kenyan green beans, Indian tea, Vietnamese shrimp or Thai canned tuna, the share of the price paid by consumers in Europe and the US that reaches small-scale farmers and workers is less than 5%.
It would take a woman processing shrimp at a typical plant in Indonesia or Thailand more than 4,000 years to earn what a chief executive at a top US supermarket earns in a year.
In Italy, 75% of surveyed women workers on fruit and vegetable farms said they or a family member had cut back on the number of meals in the previous month due to very low wages, according to a survey carried out in June 2017.
Cote d'Ivoire produces more than 40% of the cocoa for the world's $100bn chocolate market. But its 800,000 cocoa farmers are living below the poverty line.
The consumer price of Brazilian orange juice in Europe and the US has shot up by around 50% since the mid-90s, but the share that reaches small-scale farmers and workers has plummeted from 17% to 4%.
We can change this
In a global food industry worth trillions of dollars, there’s no excuse for anyone producing our food to go without enough to eat themselves. Inhumane treatment can be stopped if we all refuse to accept that human suffering should play any part in providing our food.
That’s where your actions can make a big impact. You can use your influence - as a citizen, customer, social-media user or consumer of the news - to campaign for real change from those in power and demand that our food is produced in a way that we can all live with.
Small-scale farmers, fishers, workers and shoppers across the world are already calling for action. You can join them. Together, we can help stop the human suffering behind our food.