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14 Apr 2021

RIKU TAZAKI and KEI MIYATA, Nikkei Asia (Japan)

Leading Japanese ketchup producer Kagome halts Xinjiang tomato imports

"Japan's ketchup king halts Xinjiang tomato imports", 14 April 2021

Leading Japanese ketchup producer Kagome has stopped importing tomatoes from China's Xinjiang, Nikkei learned Tuesday, joining the growing ranks of Western brands that have ceased sourcing materials from the region over reported abuses against Uyghur Muslims.

Kagome halted import of Xinjiang-grown tomato paste used in some of its sauce products last year. Tomatoes that have already been imported will be used up by the end of this year.

Along with costs and quality, "human rights problems have become a factor in making decisions," said a Kagome representative.

Kagome is believed to be the first major Japanese corporation to stop doing business with the region over the Uyghur issue. A host of popular Western brands, including H&M and Nike, have stopped buying materials made in the region, which in turn spurred a backlash from Chinese consumers. 

The impact on Kagome's operations appears minimal. The procurement of Xinjiang tomatoes, which is shipped in paste form, has been declining over the past few years. Xinjiang tomatoes currently represent less than 1% of the tomatoes used by the group. The produce will be replaced by tomatoes from other nations, and there will be no impact on production.

Kagome has always disclosed on its website that it produces raw ingredients in Xinjiang. The company performs regular visits to the factories and fields and has "confirmed that the tomatoes used in the past were not produced in an environment that violated human rights," said a Kagome representative. [...]

Part of the following timelines

China: 83 major brands implicated in report on forced labour of ethnic minorities from Xinjiang assigned to factories across provinces; Includes company responses

China: Mounting concerns over forced labour in Xinjiang

Brands face boycott in China over decision not to source Xinjiang cotton due to allegations of forced labour