Yesterday, Kagome Co, Japan’s biggest producer of ketchup and vegetable juice, said it had halted procurement of tomato paste from China’s Xinjiang region. The reason for this is to be found in the current concerns about forced labour in that region.
The move comes as Western and Japanese companies face boycotts and a public backlash in China over comments expressing concern about the alleged abuses of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. China has denied all accusations of abuse.
“The growing human rights issue is one factor that we’ve taken into consideration, but that’s not the only reason for stopping procurement there,” Kagome spokesman Kazumasa Kitagawa told Reuters. Any remaining paste sourced from the region would be used this year, he said.
Tomato paste from the Xinjiang region had accounted for only about 1% of all of Kagome’s production. The company considers cost, sustainability and other factors when deciding where to get its raw materials, Kitagawa said.
The Xinjiang region in western China is known for its cotton and tomatoes. The United States banned imports of both in January, and the United Nations has urged global companies to “closely scrutinise their supply chains” over reports of detention and forced labour of Muslim Uighurs in the province.
Experts said that it could not be ruled out that the motivation for the Japanese company to make a statement on Xinjiang-related issues was to use this as a gift from Japan to the US on the eve of the Japan-US summit, this on Friday.