Japan's ketchup maker stops tomato paste imports from China's Xinjiang region

TOKYO (REUTERS, AFP) – Kagome, Japan’s biggest maker of ketchup and vegetable juice, said on Wednesday (April 14) that it had stopped procurement of tomato paste from China’s Xinjiang region, where Western governments have raised concerns about forced labour.

The move comes as Western and Japanese companies face boycotts and a public backlash in China over comments expressing concern about the alleged abuses of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

China has denied all accusations of abuses and has stressed repeatedly that its policies in Xinjiang are necessary to counter violent extremism.

“The growing human rights issue is one factor that we’ve taken into consideration, but that’s not the only reason for stopping procurement there,” Kagome spokesman Kazumasa Kitagawa told Reuters.

Any remaining paste sourced from the region would be used this year, Mr Kitagawa said. The news was first reported by the Nikkei newspaper.

Tomato paste from the Xinjiang region had accounted for only about 1 per cent of all of Kagome’s production. The company considers cost, sustainability and other factors when deciding where to get its raw materials, Mr Kitagawa said.

The Xinjiang region in western China is known for its cotton and tomatoes.

The United States banned imports of both in January, and the United Nations has urged global companies to “closely scrutinise their supply chains” over reports of detention and forced labour of Muslim Uighurs in the province.

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