Child slavery is an ongoing problem in Uzbekistan's cotton industry. Around 90 per cent of Uzbek cotton is harvested by hand with approximately half of all cotton picked by state-sponsored forced child labour. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of children are involved each year.
Uzbekistan is the sixth largest producer of cotton in the world and the third biggest exporter, generating over US$1 billion annually through the export of around 850,000 tonnes of cotton every year. Cotton is currently enjoying a 200 year-high price and Uzbekistan's President Karimov recently announced that the profit from this year's cotton harvest is expected to increase by 35 per cent. Despite these profits, those ordered to pick the cotton remain impoverished.
The single biggest destination for Uzbek cotton is the European market. Despite strong condemnation from the European Union over the use of child slavery in Uzbek cotton production, the EU continues to allow the Government of Uzbekistan to benefit from reduced trading tariffs for its cotton imports to the EU despite its own rules that these benefits should be withdrawn.
Sign the Cotton Crimes petition here calling on upon the President of the European Parliament to stop child slavery.