Finnish grocery chain stops selling troublesome tomatoes
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Finnish grocery chain Kesko has decided to stop selling tomatoes from its supplier Azura, which grows tomatoes in Dakhla, occupied Western Sahara.
Published: 22.02 - 2011 16:06Printer version    
The package of the Azura tomatoes says the fruits were grown in Morocco. But there’s reason to doubt whether that is actually the case.

Kesko’s supplier of tomatoes, Azura, is a French-Moroccan owned business producing vegetables in Agadir and in Dakhla, a town in the southern parts of Western Sahara. Azura’s tomato plantations in the occupied territories cover an area of several square kilometres. Almost all of Azura’s employees now working in the Dakhla greenhouses are settlers who have moved into Western Sahara after Morocco invaded the area.

The Finnish Peace Committee contacted Kesko in mid-February on the potentially dubious origins of the Azura tomatoes. After having looked into the situation, the grocery chain communicated its decision to refrain from buying any more Azura tomatoes in the near future.

“We are very pleased with Kesko’s decision”, says Maiju Kaipiainen from Western Sahara Resource Watch. “Agriculture is a part and a parcel of Morocco’s strategy to moroccanize Western Sahara. Kesko's choice not to sell produce  grown illegally in an occupied country,  speaks volumes of the chain's respect for corporate social responsibility”.

In 2009, Azura tomatoes were discovered in the shops of Coop in Norway and Sweden. Coop Norway then promised to halt all further imports. Coop Sweden announced that their tomatoes, on the other hand, only came from Agadir - not Dakhla. In May last year, the Swedish grocery chain Axfood also stopped selling Azura tomatoes.

    


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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.
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