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BASF, Syngenta and Arisa to address labour standards in the Indian vegetable seeds sector

28 villages and approximately 500 suppliers in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka to benefit from the programme. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

BASF, a German chemical company, Syngenta, an agricultural science and technology provider and Arisa an independent NGO, have joined hands to address child labour issues and strive for minimum wage compliance in the vegetable seed sector in India

The four-year project, cofounded with a grant from the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO), consists of two phases: In the first phase, WISH will research whether and where payments are still below minimum wages and/or child labour and the violation of other labour rights occur. 

The data will be independently collected by two India-based organisations, Glocal Research and MV Foundation, and used by them to suggest modes of action to address these challenges. In the second phase, WISH will look to implement strategies that address the root causes of gaps in the minimum wages and child labour regulations in the vegetable seeds sector.

Various industry reports from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Arisa indicate that the agriculture sector in India faces several critical and systemic issues related to human and labour rights. Current wages in the sector are often lower than the region’s statutory minimum wage, and although child labour has been greatly reduced in the past few years, it remains an ongoing challenge within the agricultural sector.

“In this project, Arisa will use its expertise, knowledge, and network to address labour rights violations in the vegetable seed sector. Due to COVID-19, the issues motivating this project have become even more urgent: the number of children working has increased in the last two years, as schools were closed and families lost income,” said Sandra Claassen, director of Arisa.

 BASF’s vegetable seeds business, present in India since 2002, started a broader initiative towards sustainable seed supply called Child Labor Prevention Program in 2009. “Over this time, we have reached more than 88,000 farms from over 14,000 suppliers,” said Rob Huijten, county head the Netherlands, and board member of BASF’s vegetable seed business. “We are proud to work together with Syngenta and Arisa to address this complex situation that affects thousands of families in India.”

“Syngenta has a history of being a positive force for establishing fair labour practices across the world, improving conditions for field workers and addressing challenges like child labour, fair wages, health and safety,” said Jason Allerding, head of health, safety and environment, sustainability and risk management, Syngenta Seeds. “We understand that meaningful outcomes can best be achieved through collective action from various stakeholders. Through this collaboration, we aim to bring partners together to build a roadmap for wage progression across the vegetable seeds sector.”