The issues behind Morocco’s new boom product: green beans

29 March 2016

Green beans are for most of us a vegetable that we have eaten since our childhood. We know them as a healthy vegetable that we can buy in supermarkets all year round. But have you ever thought about where they are produced, by whom and under what circumstances? Green beans can grow in most mild climates, but the ones found in North-Western European supermarkets often come from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Morocco. In fact, green beans are Morocco’s new boom product and around three quarters of those produced are sent to the EU. Many of them end up in European supermarkets, such as Albert Heijn, Tesco and Lidl.

We already know from our tomato project in Morocco that the working conditions for tomato pickers in in Morocco’s Souss-Massa region aren’t good and that wages are very, very low. As this region is one of Morocco’s primary agricultural regions (it produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, from oranges and lemons to peppers and green beans and many, many more) and it employs 74,000 people, we wanted to know whether the labour conditions were any different for workers producing other commodities. The sad reality is that our newest field research in Morocco shows that green bean workers unfortunately face the same challenges as the tomato workers.

See the Morocco Green Beans Factsheet for more details.

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Poor childcare facilities

The majority of workers are female and many are young single mothers who have migrated from other parts of the country. As well as working long days on farms and in packing stations, they also have to take care of their households and children. Many of these women leave their children with a mourabbia (a child-minder). There’s often only one carer for a very large group of children and conditions can be very poor.

Low wages

Wages are very low in the sector. Most green bean workers earn around the minimum wage. This is slightly above the national poverty threshold for rural households and is not enough to live on. A living wage – one which would cover all basic needs – should be 2 to 3 times the current minimum wage in Morocco. One of the many consequences of such low wages is that workers are unable to afford a nutritious diet for their family.

Workers cannot stand up for their rights

Unlike in North-Western Europe, Moroccan workers can face major challenges to standing up for their rights. In theory, agricultural workers have the legal right to form or join a trade union, however freedom of association is often not respected in some companies.

Moroccan green bean workers are facing more issues than just these. You can read all about them in the factsheet below.

It’s time for change!

With 74,000 people working in the agricultural sector in the Souss-Massa region in Morocco, imagine the impact of any small change! This doesn’t mean that we should now stop buying green beans from Morocco, because we don’t want these workers to lose their jobs. We should look for structural solutions together with the companies that produce and sell these green beans.

The largest green bean company in the region, Quality Bean Morocco (QBM) has already proven that change is possible! For example, they have improved transport and childcare conditions for their workers.

You can read more details in the Green Bean Factsheet.