Supply Chain Characteristics that Impact Traceability

Traceability Takeaways

  • Forced labor and child labor are present in rice production at various nodes in the value chain, including the cultivation and harvesting, processing and packing, and transportation nodes. Rice from different paddies across a multitude of geographic locations may be aggregated during processing.
  • Depending on procurement structures, small neighboring producers in a given region may each be producing rice that ends up in the supply chains of different traders and ultimately different downstream companies.
  • Since child labor risks are often tied to contextual development issues, such as a lack of accessible childcare, intervention efforts at the community level may be more effective than at the level of the individual worksites. Therefore, identifying supplying regions is an important piece of prevention and remediation programming, even when tracing rice back to a specific small producer is challenging. Further assessments of individual suppliers and specific production regions should be carried out to assess labor conditions, workforce demographics, and community dynamics at specific worksites or regions. This information can then better inform traceability strategies.
  • There is a documented presence of vulnerable workers, including migrant workers, in the rice supply chain, as well as the use of third-party recruiters. Downstream companies should conduct careful supply chain mapping to ensure that they know the geographic footprint of their rice sourcing to determine if workforce demographics are likely to include vulnerable migrant workers.
  • Rice production is labor-intensive and relies on small farms in many countries, leading to buyers having highly flexible procurement practices. Rice supply chains are also complex and often involve numerous layers of middlemen. This makes it difficult for producers to establish relationships with downstream buyers or for downstream actors to invest in capacity building programs for producers. Traceability efforts should therefore enable the participation of upstream traders and cooperatives as key supply chain actors. Efforts to reduce barriers to participation could include building more direct and durable sourcing relationships with producers to enable capacity building, investment, and support; accommodating various data keeping methods, including paper record keeping in some cases; and ensuring that small producers have access to the tools and technology to participate in digital traceability efforts.

Nature of Labor Rights Risk/Vulnerable Workers

Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by U.S. Government

Child Labor cited by U.S. Government

Risk of Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by other source

Risk of Child Labor cited by other source

Documented presence of migrant workers

Documented presence of other vulnerable workers

Documented presence or significant likelihood of third-party labor recruiters

Features of Production and Supply Chain

Large numbers of dispersed, unorganized, or informal small producers or other worksites

Multiple points of aggregation, co-mingling, and/or transformation across supply chain

Complex, opaque supply chains and/or lack of vertical

High degree of flexibility in procurement practices of downstream entities

  • Smallholder farmers, along with some large land-holding farmers, grow and harvest paddy rice. These farmers may sell their paddy rice directly to medium or large-scale rice processing mills or to intermediate collectors or traders, who then sell the rice for a profit to millers or exporters.13Muthayya, Sumithra et al. “An overview of global rice production, supply, trade, and consumption.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1324 (2014) pp 7 – 14,
  • Cooperatives or traders can aggregate both paddy and milled rice before it moves down the supply chain.14Food loss analysis: causes and solutions. Case study on the rice value chain in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. FAO, 2018,
  • The rice supply chain is complex; there are different levels of middlemen between farmers and processors, as well as between processors and customers.15Sharma, Vishal et al. “Supply chain management of rice in India: A rice processing company’s perspective.” International Journal of Managing Value and Supply Chains, 2013, The supply chain is often not vertically integrated, particularly in upstream nodes.16Food loss analysis: causes and solutions. Case study on the rice value chain in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. FAO, 2018,

Distribution of Labor Risk in Various Production Areas

Scale or nature of risk is present across multiple tiers or nodes of supply chain (including in associated downstream or upstream goods)

Scale or nature of risk varies significantly based on geographic area of production.

Scale or nature of risk is strongly associated with certain types of suppliers/entities.

  • Rice transplanting, cultivation, and harvesting can be labor-intensive processes and present a high risk of forced labor and child labor. Forced labor risk in the form of debt bondage – in which workers receive advances disproportionate to their ensuing wages – has also been documented in rice milling,17Iyer, Kavitha. “Eight years in bonded labour, tribals recall horror, now hope for new life, homes.” India Express, 2020. as well as during the loading and unloading of trucks at rice factories.18The price of rice. Danwatch, 2014.

Linked Upstream and Downstream Risks

Risk in Nodes in Rice Production

The rice supply chain is highly complex and contains multiple levels of middlemen.19Food loss analysis: causes and solutions. Case study on the rice value chain in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. FAO, 2018, Farmers and hired farm laborers cultivate and harvest paddy rice, which may be sold directly or indirectly through middlemen to rice processors. Transplanting and harvesting rice by hand, popular methods in Asia, are physically labor-intensive jobs.20Manual Transplanting. Rice Knowledge Bank. At processing units, rice is milled and packed. Heavy sacks of milled rice are then loaded onto vehicles that transport rice to customers, including wholesalers, retailers, or institutional buyers, with the potential involvement of distribution agents or traders in between.21Sharma, Vishal et al. “Supply chain management of rice in India: A rice processing company’s perspective.’ International Journal of Managing Value and Supply Chains, 2013,

Seedling propogation and Rice cultivation


Processing (milling) and packing



Associated Downstream Goods and Consumer Sectors

Food and Beverage

Rice is one of the most widely consumed grains worldwide. It is consumed as a food item in the food and beverage sector and used as an ingredient in many different processed foods and drink, including alcoholic beverages. It is also an ingredient found in pet food.

Cosmetics and Personal Care

Rice is also an ingredient found in cosmetics and personal care items.

Top Global Countries

  1. India22List of exporters for the selected product in 2021 Product: 1006 Rice. ITC Trademap,
  2. Thailand
  3. Vietnam
  4. Pakistan
  5. United States of America
  6. China
  7. Italy
  8. Myanmar
  9. Cambodia
  10. Belgium
  1. China23Crops and livestock products. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
  2. India
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Indonesia
  5. Vietnam
  6. Thailand
  7. Myanmar
  8. The Philippines
  9. Pakistan
  10. Brazil


Examples & Resources: Traceability Efforts Associated With Rice