The U.S. authorities introduced Wednesday that it’ll detain all imports of sugar and associated merchandise made within the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Company, Ltd. amid allegations that it makes use of pressured labor.
A U.S. Customs and Border Safety investigation discovered that the corporate allegedly remoted staff, withheld wages, fostered abusive working and dwelling circumstances and pushed for extreme additional time, the company mentioned in a information launch.
“Producers like Central Romana, who fail to abide by our legal guidelines, will face penalties as we root out these inhumane practices from U.S. provide chains,” mentioned AnnMarie Highsmith with the CBP’s Workplace of Commerce.
A spokeswoman for the corporate didn’t instantly return a textual content message in search of remark. Central Romana, which has lengthy confronted these kinds of accusations, is the Dominican Republic’s largest sugar producer in an business that exports greater than $100 million value of merchandise to the U.S. yearly.
Considered one of Central Romana’s house owners is the Florida-based Fanjul Corp.
The announcement was cheered by activists who’ve lengthy decried the therapy of tens of 1000’s of staff who reside and work on sprawling sugarcane fields, a lot of them Haitian migrants or descendants of them.
“That is wanted to enhance their scenario,” Roudy Joseph, a labor rights activist within the Dominican Republic, mentioned in a cellphone interview. “We’ve been asking for enhancements for many years.”
The Related Press final yr visited a number of sugarcane fields owned by Central Romana the place staff complained a few lack of wages, being pressured to reside in cramped housing that lacked water and restrictive guidelines together with not being allowed to develop a backyard to feed their households since transportation to the closest grocery retailer miles away was too expensive.
Joseph famous that a minimum of 6,000 staff are also demanding pensions for which they paid dues however that had been suspended by Dominican President Luis Abinader.
Sugarcane staff even have organized a number of protests this yr to demand everlasting residencies after working for many years within the Dominican Republic, which is now cracking down on Haitian migrants below Abinader in a transfer that has drawn heavy worldwide criticism.
Central Romana produced almost 400,000 tons (363,000 metric tons) of sugar within the harvest interval that ended final yr after grinding greater than 3.4 million tons (3 million metric tons) of cane, in accordance with the corporate.
Wednesday’s announcement comes after the U.S. Division of Labor in September positioned sugarcane from the Dominican Republic on its checklist of products produced by kids or by way of pressured labor. The U.S. State Division additionally has cited the Dominican Republic in its report on human trafficking.
A gaggle of U.S. legislators who visited the nation issued an announcement in July saying staff lived in settlements, or bateyes, “below harsh and substandard circumstances” and that some “described being directed to remain quiet and never converse to anybody about their circumstances earlier than our go to.”
The congressional delegation additionally famous that Central Romana had began to make enhancements, however that “regardless of this, a tradition of worry seems to permeate the business, the place firm supervisors, armed guards, and officers from an unrepresentative union monitor staff each within the fields and within the bateyes.”
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