The lion’s share of the tropical shrimp we consume in Western and Northern Europe comes from Asia. The largest Asian exporting countries to the Western and Northern Europe are India, Vietnam, Thailand and Bangladesh. These countries produce almost solely for the export.
A large part of the shrimp production is prepared to some extent in these countries before it is exported. Large factories dedicate themselves to more refined forms of processing, such as cooking, breading and seasoning the shrimp. The most labour intensive work is the pre-processing phase: removing the heads, veins and hard shell of the shrimp. The pre-processing of the shrimp is very delicate work and can only be done by hand. It is usually performed by a large labour force at pre-processing facilities.
Work in the fishing industry is considered a ‘3D-job’: dirty, dangerous and demeaning. This type of work is low-skilled and is typically done by a vulnerable workforce: women who come from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Many of them have migrated from poorer areas or countries to find employment. This makes them extra vulnerable to exploitation. However, their wages are so low that they have little chance of escaping their jobs in the shrimp industry.