Swiss grocery chain Migros will implement the Western Sahara labels from 2014 onwards, a spokesperson of the grocery chain stated in the Swiss edition of the German newspaper Die Zeit. Die Zeit last week featured an article on the controversial origins of some of the fruits and vegetables that end up in Swiss supermarkets: the parts of Western Sahara that have been occupied by Morocco since 1975.
According to Die Zeit, Migros imports produce from the French-Moroccan conglomerate Idyl. The company own plantations and greenhouses in Morocco proper, but also near the town of Dakhla, in the south of occupied Western Sahara. Fruits and vegetables grown in the area are transported to Agadir, in Morocco, where they are packaged before being shipped to shops around the world.
Confronted with evidence that part of their imports come in fact from occupied territory of Western Sahara, Migros announced they’d re-label the melons that are cultivated in Dakhla. From 2014, the supermarket will mark the melons as originating from Western Sahara and not from Morocco as the packages say now.
Just last year, Migros took a similar decision to mark vegetables grown by Israeli companies on occupied Palestinian land as being from Palestine.
According to the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Switzerland imported 30 million Swiss Francs of fruits and vegetables from Morocco in 2012. The lion's share of these imports is tomatoes.
Last year, Western Sahara Resource Watch published a report “Label and Liability”, documenting how produce from contested agro-industry on occupied land ends up on the shelves of EU supermarkets.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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