The US government which suspended all tobacco imports from Malawi announced on Monday that it has ‘modified an existing Withhold Release Order on imports of tobacco from Malawi’.
In November 2019, the US government announced that it had suspended all imports of tobacco from Malawi over child labour allegations.
The ban followed the news followed decision by human rights lawyers to bring a case against British American Tobacco (BAT) in the high court in London over child labour in Malawi’s tobacco fields. In the case Leigh Day lawyers are acting for nearly 2,000 claimants – children and their parents – and expect that up to 15,000 will join the case.
A statement issued by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says effective May 21, 2021, certain tobacco imports from Premium Tobacco Malawi Limited (PTML) will be admissible at all U.S. ports of entry.
“This modification applies only to tobacco harvested by Club Growers in Malawi,” stresses the statement which adds that previously, CBP prohibited the entry of these imports into the United States based on reasonable suspicion that they were produced using forced labour.
The Withhold Release Order continues to apply to imports of tobacco from Malawi by any company that has not demonstrated to CBP that its supply chain is free of forced labour.
This still means that shipments arriving in the United States will be detained at the port of entry and will be released only after importers have proven that the tobacco is not produced with labour prohibited under US law.
CBP says it modified the November 2019 Withhold Release Order based on a rigorous evaluation of PTML’s social compliance program and efforts to identify and minimize the risks of forced labour in its supply chain.
It says these actions produced evidence that sufficiently supports PTML’s claims that tobacco from club growers including smallholder growers that use little or no farm worker labour, is not grown and harvested using forced labour or forced child labour.
The statement quotes John Leonard, Acting Executive Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade who says the “CBP’s forced labour enforcement efforts continue to effect positive change for workers around the globe.”
“Eliminating forced labour from our supply chains prevents the abuse of vulnerable workers, safeguards the competitiveness of law-abiding businesses, and protects consumers from unethically made products,” he added.
The agency modified the Withhold Release Order in June 2020 to allow imports of tobacco from Alliance One International, LLC and again in August 2020 to allow imports of tobacco from Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Ltd making this the third time that CBP has modified the Withhold Release Order on tobacco from Malawi.
The statement says the entities fully addressed CBP’s concerns about the use of forced labour in their production processes.
According to Federal statute, importation of merchandise mined, manufactured or produced, wholly or in part, by forced labour, including convict labour, forced child labour and indentured labour is prohibited.
“When information reasonably but not conclusively indicates that merchandise within the purview of this provision is being imported, the Commissioner of CBP may issue a Withhold Release Order,” states the press release. “Withhold Release Orders direct CBP personnel at U.S. ports of entry to detain shipments containing goods specified by the order.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :