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This is Jinxiang the garlic capital of China. More than half of the world's garlic exports come from the countryside around here. Despite being a tiny county by Chinese standards, the local government's garlic harvest report can swing garlic prices around the world. China is the world's biggest garlic producer by far, growing 20 million tonnes each year, and 80% of the world's garlic exports.
But the flavour in our meals has a dirty secret behind it. Some of it is peeled by prisoners. Over the past decade, as China's economy has developed and wages have grown, export companies have turned to prisoners as a cheap source of labour. Here the security cameras show lines of prisoners peeling garlic. They don't have a choice, as not working can mean they get beaten up by guards, according to former inmates.
Prison labour is common and legal in China. And the "Financial Times" traced at least 55 prison companies around the country. But exporting goods made by prison labour is against China's own laws. And importing goods made by forced labour, including prison labour, is against the law in many countries around the world.
Foreign companies have rapidly integrated Chinese workers into their supply chains. Many, like the various non-prison workers in this video processing, storing, and transporting garlic, are employed legally. But others are not, because companies often don't know who their workers are, or what conditions they're working under. Here in China, at the heart of the world's supply chains, multinationals need to do the ground work to make sure that they know where their profits are coming from. Yuan Yang, Financial Times, Jinxiang