Dominican sugar imports tied to forced labor rejected by US

Nov 23, 2022, 7:30 AM | Updated: 10:21 am
FILE - A youth plays near the machine where the sugar cane is weighed in the Lima batey, or neighbo...

FILE - A youth plays near the machine where the sugar cane is weighed in the Lima batey, or neighborhood, in La Romana, where Central Romana Corporation, Ltd. operates its sugar operations in Dominican Republic, Nov. 17, 2021. The U.S. government announced Nov. 23, 2022 that it will detain all imports of sugar and related products made in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation, Ltd. amid allegations that it uses forced labor. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

(AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.S. government announced Wednesday that it will detain all imports of sugar and related products made in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation, Ltd. amid allegations that it uses forced labor.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigation found that the company allegedly isolated workers, withheld wages, fostered abusive working and living conditions and pushed for excessive overtime, the agency said in a news release.

“Manufacturers like Central Romana, who fail to abide by our laws, will face consequences as we root out these inhumane practices from U.S. supply chains,” said AnnMarie Highsmith with the CBP’s Office of Trade.

Central Romana said in a written response to The Associated Press that it received the news about the import ban with “great astonishment.”

“In recent decades we have invested millions of dollars to improve the working and living conditions of our employees in agricultural areas, guaranteeing decent wages and increased benefits, training and education workshops, as well as training in human rights and duties of our workers,” it said.

Central Romana, which has long faced those types of accusations, is the Dominican Republic’s largest sugar producer in an industry that exports more than $100 million worth of products to the U.S. every year.

One of Central Romana’s owners is the Florida-based Fanjul Corp.

The announcement was cheered by activists who have long decried the treatment of tens of thousands of workers who live and work on sprawling sugarcane fields, many of them Haitian migrants or descendants of them.

“This is needed to improve their situation,” Roudy Joseph, a labor rights activist in the Dominican Republic, said in a phone interview. “We’ve been asking for improvements for decades.”

The Associated Press last year visited several sugarcane fields owned by Central Romana where workers complained about a lack of wages, being forced to live in cramped housing that lacked water and restrictive rules including not being allowed to grow a garden to feed their families since transportation to the nearest grocery store miles away was too costly.

Joseph noted that at least 6,000 workers also are demanding pensions for which they paid dues but that were suspended by Dominican President Luis Abinader.

Sugarcane workers also have organized several protests this year to demand permanent residencies after working for decades in the Dominican Republic, which is now cracking down on Haitian migrants under Abinader in a move that has drawn heavy international criticism.

Central Romana produced nearly 400,000 tons (363,000 metric tons) of sugar in the harvest period that ended last year after grinding more than 3.4 million tons (3 million metric tons) of cane, according to the company.

Wednesday’s announcement comes after the U.S. Department of Labor in September placed sugarcane from the Dominican Republic on its list of goods produced by children or via forced labor. The U.S. State Department also has cited the Dominican Republic in its report on human trafficking.

A group of U.S. legislators who visited the country issued a statement in July saying workers lived in settlements, or bateyes, “under harsh and substandard conditions” and that some “described being directed to stay quiet and not speak to anyone about their conditions before our visit.”

The congressional delegation also noted that Central Romana had started to make improvements, but that “despite this, a culture of fear appears to permeate the industry, where company supervisors, armed guards, and officials from an unrepresentative union monitor workers both in the fields and in the bateyes.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

India’s G-20 energy meet to balance renewables, fossil fuels

BENGALURU, India (AP) — Over 500 energy industry heavyweights and 30,000 participants will descend on the southern Indian city of Bengaluru on Monday to discuss the future of renewables and fossil fuels at India Energy Week — the first big ticket event of the country’s presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies. Speakers, including […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Mega Millions lottery tickets and a wager slip are displayed, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Derry...
Arizona Sports

Drawing nears for $700M Powerball prize, 10th biggest in US

Another huge lottery jackpot will be on the line Saturday for players willing to put up $2 vs. daunting odds of actually winning the prize.
21 hours ago
Chinese spy balloon flies above in Charlotte NC, United States on February 04, 2023. The Pentagon a...
Associated Press

US downs suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast

The United States on Saturday downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites.
21 hours ago
A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl dangerous for Mexico’s avocado haulers

SANTA ANA ZIROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl. It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Iraqi currency crash halts after meeting with U.S. official

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s currency ended its nosedive after a meeting between the Iraqi Central Bank head and a top U.S. Treasury official. Under Secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement Saturday that he had met with Central Bank of Iraq Governor Ali al-Allaq in Istanbul […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Gas prices dip in NJ, around nation as cold weather returns

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gas prices dipped in New Jersey and around the country at large as cold weather descended on parts of the nation following an unusually warm January. AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average price of a gallon of regular gas in New Jersey on Friday was $3.42, down three cents from last week. […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Dominican sugar imports tied to forced labor rejected by US