Princes and Oxfam collaborate to protect workers’ rights in Italian tomato supply chain


International food and drink group, Princes, has established a new partnership with Oxfam Italy as part of ongoing efforts to protect workers’ rights across the tomato supply chain of its popular Italian cooking brand, Napolina.

The collaboration with Oxfam Italy involves the roll-out of monitoring processes and the independent assessment of human rights initiatives implemented by the Group’s Italian tomato processing facility, Princes Industrie Alimentari (PIA).

These initiatives are designed to tackle exploitation challenges within the supply chains of both direct suppliers, and other producers across the Apulia region. They include schemes to provide training on labour rights, ethical practices, and safety at work, as well as health insurance to cover medical examinations and certificates, access to a ‘help desk’ service for workers employed in the fields, and safe transport for fieldworkers.

Napolina and PIA have taken various steps to enhance social sustainability across the tomato supply chain, investing in the protection of human rights to support the fight against exploitation practices, such as the Caporale (gangmaster) system. According to recent research from Italy’s National Labour Inspectorate, exploitation practices are on the rise throughout the country, especially in affluent areas. The report revealed that from 2020 to 2021, over 68% [1]of companies in Southern Italy were identified as irregular, with the agriculture industry remaining the most exposed sector.

The Caporale’s control often has far-reaching and negative impacts on the lives of workers in the Southern Italian tomato supply chain, through illegal wages, poor working conditions, lack of contracts and forced labour.

Andy Hargraves, Group Director for Italian Products, said: “This collaboration with Oxfam Italy is another important step forward in our ongoing journey to foster social equity and protect workers’ rights throughout the “100% Made in Italy” tomato supply chain. Thanks to this valuable partnership, we are developing a robust training framework for our growers and their workers, which we hope will be a source of inspiration for other companies across both the tomato supply chain, and the broader Italian agriculture sector. At the same time, we are strengthening transparency through monitoring processes to ensure we offer customers industry-leading standards in ethical sourcing, while demonstrating the action we are taking to improve conditions for the producers of Napolina tomatoes.”

Giorgia Ceccarelli, Oxfam Policy Advisor on Business and Human Rights said: “Oxfam has long engaged brands and food companies to ensure that they take responsibility to tackle human rights issues in their supply chains. We have entered into this collaboration because there is a concrete opportunity to strengthen how local stakeholders work together as a means to improve conditions for thousands of workers who are vulnerable to exploitation. It is a welcome step that PIA and Napolina have committed to undertake a three-year initiative that aims to enhance growers’ sustainability and protect human and workers’ rights in the Italian tomato value chain. We will be regularly monitoring the progress that is made and how these commitments are being translated into positive outcomes for workers.”

The partnership is an integral part of Princes’ recently expanded agreement with leading Italian agricultural association, Coldiretti, to enhance the social, environmental, and economic value of the tomato supply chain. This involves a commitment from PIA and Napolina for guaranteed three-year supply contracts to enhance financial stability for growers, and work with the University of Foggia to ensure that the pricing of tomatoes reflects the true costs of growing and harvesting to enable the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Through collaborations with partners like Coldiretti and Oxfam Italy, Napolina and PIA are playing an important role in highlighting the positive changes that can be made to historical ways of working in Southern Italy. In the UK, consumers can see the origins of Napolina tomatoes via on pack Quick Response (QR) code technology, and PIA has been recognised by UK supermarkets for its work in addressing human rights issues in the Italian tomato supply chain.

Napolina and PIA were also recognised at the end of last year by Oxfam Italy for ongoing efforts to tackle inequality and poverty in the Italian tomato supply chain, through a 2021 ‘Fighting inequality: It can be done’ award. The award was received in the ‘Building Alternatives to Inequality’ category for PIA’s ‘Lavoro Senza Frontiere’ (Work Without Borders) initiative – launched in collaboration with on-the-ground charity, Caritas, in 2018, to train and find roles for victims of modern slavery in Southern Italy.

At its Foggia plant – the largest tomato processing site in Europe – PIA processes around 200,000 tonnes of fresh tomatoes from the Apulian district annually and is supplied exclusively by producers who must hold Global G.A.P. GRASP or SA8000 certifications. In addition, all of PIA’s tomato growers must be enrolled on the ‘Rete De Lavoro’, a Ministry of Labour public register of businesses fully compliant with labour and human rights legislation and transparent payment of wages.

[1] National Labour Inspectorate – 2021 La Repubblica interview