Indonesia and Malaysia are the two largest palm oil producers. The industry is quite controversial and is said to be responsible for deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats of orangutans, among others. Human rights organizations have also long accused FGV and some other suppliers of violations of labor rights and human rights.
The US import ban comes after human rights organizations urged US authorities to investigate possible forced labor and human trafficking on FGV plantations. About 84 percent of plantation workers in Malaysia, a total of about 337,000 people, are migrants from countries such as Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.
Physical and sexual violence
According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the US customs agency, the US import ban is the result of an investigation that lasted a year and revealed that workers at FGV are being misled and victims of physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats. Their identity documents are taken and the company takes advantage of their vulnerability. The research also found that children may be involved in FGV’s production processes.
“The use of forced labor in the production of such a ubiquitous product allows companies to take advantage of the misuse of vulnerable workers, ”says Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner from the CBP trade office. The customs agency is calling on US importers to scrutinize the labor practices of their suppliers, as the organization has received complaints across the entire palm oil industry.
Among others, the multinational Procter & Gamble, which manufactures a variety of consumer goods, will be affected by the import ban. After all, P&G has a joint venture with FGV.
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