U.S. Blocks Dominican Republic Company’s Sugar Imports Over Alleged Forced Labor
U.S. Customs said it had found multiple indicators of the use of forced labor at Central Romana’s operations
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has blocked imports of sugar and sugar-based products from a Dominican Republic-based company because of its alleged use of forced labor, a move that comes amid a broader crackdown.
U.S. Customs will detain raw sugar and sugar-based products produced in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corp. after the agency uncovered multiple indicators of forced labor.
“The agency will continue to set a high global standard by aggressively investigating allegations of forced labor in U.S. supply chains and keeping tainted merchandise out of the United States,” Customs Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement Wednesday.
“We disagree vehemently with the decision as we do not believe it reflects the facts about our company and the treatment of our employees,” Central Romana said.
In 2020, the U.S. put together a task force to go after companies using forced labor, and in recent months has promised aggressive action.
Attention has largely centered on China’s Xinjiang region, home to the country’s Uyghur minority and the focus of a targeted anti-forced labor law that came into effect in June. But the U.S. intends to deploy its beefed-up resources to combat forced labor worldwide, said Robert Silvers, an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and chairman of the task force.
“We’re not a one-trick pony,” Mr. Silvers told The Wall Street Journal’s Risk & Compliance Forum earlier this month. “We’re looking more broadly than [Xinjiang] and we have the bandwidth and resources to do so.”
Central Romana, which also has businesses in tourism, services and manufacturing, is the largest sugar producer in the Dominican Republic.
The company touts its social and environmental stances, saying on its website that it had provided no-cost housing to more than 5,000 employees and had paid out about $19.7 million worth of bonuses after this year’s harvest.
U.S. Customs enforces dozens of active “withhold release orders,” which direct its agents to detain flagged goods at U.S. ports. Wednesday’s action against Central Romana is the only active WRO to target a Dominican Republic-based company, according to the agency.