Supply Chain Characteristics that Impact Traceability

Traceability Takeaways

  • Forced labor and child labor risks are present in tomato cultivation and harvesting worldwide.
  • Labor risks exist primarily at the cultivation and harvesting nodes of the tomato supply chain.
  • Top producing countries have both small and large farms that contribute to export supply chains.
  • Tomato supply chains include numerous actors and tomatoes often change hands at least five or six times before they are sold by retailers.
  • To address these challenges, traceability efforts should aim to trace raw, unprocessed tomatoes back to their countries of origin. Ideally, products should be traced to the farm level where possible. Traceability efforts in tomato supply chains should also be applicable in supply chains where tomatoes are further processed and/or used as ingredients in other food and beverage products. See the profile on Tomato Products for more information.

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 integration

High degree of flexibility in procurement practices of downstream entities

  • The tomato supply chain is made up of both small and large producers, the distribution of which varies between countries. Large producers in Pakistan, Mexico, and Italy engage in direct bulk supply to downstream nodes and often work directly for distribution entities.22USAID, The Agribusiness Project. Tomato-Value Chain Competitiveness Assessment, 2014, Small, medium, and large producers are all present in the Mexican supply chain; workers at large production sites may be at a higher risk of forced labor.23“Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico’s Farms, a Bounty for U.S. Tables.” Los Angeles Times, December 2014, Small producers are the most common in Italy24Cechura, L, Zakova Kroupova. Samoggia, A. “Drivers of Productivity Change in the Italian Tomato Food Value Chain.” Agriculture 2021, no. 11, 996.    and India. They often sell their tomatoes to larger producers who then sell to distributors and final retailers.25“Value Chain Study of Tomato Of Karnal, Haryana.” National Horticultural Research & Development Foundation, 2018,
  • Tomato supply chains tend to be opaque and complex; tomatoes are often traded multiple times between different actors before they are sold to final retailers.26“U.S. Blocking Tomato Shipments from Mexican Farms Accused of Abusing Workers.” Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2021,  

Distribution of Labor Risk in Various Production Areas

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

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

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

  • Forced labor and child labor risk is present throughout tomato supply chains worldwide.
  • Among large producers, the risk of forced labor may be higher, while among small producers, the risk of child labor may be higher.27“Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico’s Farms, a Bounty for U.S. Tables.” Los Angeles Times, December 2014,
  • Tomato production occurs in two streams: tomatoes harvested at an industrial level for sauces and canned goods, and those harvested for raw consumption. The risk of forced and child labor appears in both streams.28Cechura, L, Zakova Kroupova. Samoggia, A. “Drivers of Productivity Change in the Italian Tomato Food Value Chain.” Agriculture 2021, no. 11, 996,

Linked Upstream and Downstream Risks

Risk in Nodes in Tomato Production

The cultivation and harvesting stage of tomato production begins with the initial planting of tomato seeds in a climate-controlled or climate-consistent environment, usually ranging between 70 to 85°F. After five or six weeks in the climate-controlled environment, the tomato plants are transplanted into a field to mature, which takes an additional three to six weeks. Once mature, the transplanted tomatoes can be harvested over several weeks before production declines. Harvested tomatoes are then sold to a local or regional broker and subsequently to a distributor, who markets and packages the tomatoes. After they are properly packaged, tomatoes are transported via truck or plane, depending on their country of origin and buyer, to their final destination.29“A Guide to Shipping Tomatoes from Mexico.” Mexico Cross Border Freight, June 2, 2020, In different regions, this process can include two or three brokers and distributors before the tomatoes are sold at final retail. This frequent changing of hands means that the supply chain becomes more opaque. Forced labor and child labor risk is highest at the cultivation and harvesting stages of the tomato supply chain.30Duval, Dari, Ashley Kerna Bickel, George Frisvol. “Mexican Fresh Tomatoes: Agribusiness Value Chain Contributions to the U.S. Economy.” University of Arizona, 2018,

Cultivation and Harvesting

Distribution and Exporting

Packaging and Marketing

Final Retail

Associated Downstream Goods and Consumer Sectors

Food and Beverage

Tomatoes are widely consumed worldwide, with more than 180 million tons produced per year. More than half of all tomatoes grown are for processed tomato products, such as canned tomatoes, ketchup, and tomato sauce.

Top Global Countries

  1. Mexico31List of exporters for the selected product in 2021 Product: 0702 Tomatoes, fresh or chilled. ITC Trade Map, .
  2. Netherlands
  3. Spain
  4. Morocco
  5. France
  6. Canada
  7. China
  8. Iran
  9. Turkey
  10. Belgium
  1. China32Crops and livestock products. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, .
  2. India
  3. Turkey
  4. United States of America
  5. Italy
  6. Egypt
  7. Spain
  8. Mexico
  9. Brazil
  10. Nigeria

Examples & Resources: Traceability Efforts Associated With Tomatoes