New Report Highlights Forced Labor in Cotton Plantations in Turkmenistan

The association between cotton and slavery is back in the news. Fresh reports indicate that thousands of citizens in Turkmenistan are forced ​to work in​ cotton fields ​every​ autumn.

Forced labor is still widely practiced throughout the country, with tens of thousands of Turkmen, including many public sector employees, required ​t​o enter the fields during the harvest.

Why is this happening? Apparently, this is a consequence of a corrupt system where government officials lease cotton plots from the state and then force its citizens to pick the cotton. Many of the officials do not even live on the land or ​in the​ region​ where the plantations are​. ​The officials then sell the harvest back to the government for a low price, which in turn sells the cotton abroad at market price. During this year’s harvest, teachers guided their students into the cotton fields, where girls as young as 10 were seen picking cotton.

According to a news release from Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN),​ ​if the government increased procurement and ​commodity ​prices​, there would be no need to force social service workers into cheap labor. Currently, the government pays land les​sees 1,040 manats ($365) for every ton of cotton harvested.​ Current market price is around ​$2,000 per metric ton​.​ ​The Turkmenistan harvest yields about 1 million metric tons of raw cotton annually.

Socially responsible services are already responding to this issue. Source Intelligence, a provider of conflict minerals compliance programs, has launched its Foreign Corrupt Practices Program, which handles cotton sourced from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The company said the program is a response to requests from existing conflict minerals customers.

Image credit: Source Intelligence