fbpx
LINES OF THOUGHT ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA

Southeast Asia Globe is member-supported publication featuring in-depth journalism that promotes a more informed, inclusive and sustainable future. Members work with our team to shape our editorial direction and hold us accountable.

 

Be a part of the story. Subscribe today!


Human rights

US bans palm oil imports from second Malaysian firm

For the second time in recent months, the United States has banned imports from a Malaysian palm oil giant over concerns that its workers face a litany of abuse, including sexual and physical violence, withholding of wages and restrictions on movement

Agence France-Presse
December 31, 2020
US bans palm oil imports from second Malaysian firm
Palm oil fresh fruit brunches is collected to be processed at Sime Darby Plantation in Pulau Carey, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 25 February 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/Ahmad Yusni

The United States has banned imports from a Malaysian palm oil giant whose products are found in numerous household goods over concerns that its workers face a litany of abuse.

The move against Sime Darby Plantation, one of the world’s biggest producers, marks the second time the US has blocked shipments from a palm oil company in the Southeast Asian nation in recent months.

Palm oil is a common ingredient in items ranging from processed foods to cosmetics, with Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia producing 85 percent of the world’s supply.

But activists have long claimed that low-paid workers on plantations face abuse, and also blame the industry for driving destruction of rainforests to make way for plantations.

Announcing the ban late Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said there was evidence Sime Darby workers face abuses including sexual and physical violence, withholding of wages and restrictions on movement. 

The ban “demonstrates how essential it is for Americans to research the origins of the everyday products that they purchase,” said CBP acting commissioner Mark A. Morgan.

The decision, which came into force Wednesday, means that all Sime Darby palm oil and palm oil products from Malaysia are banned from entering US ports. 

The company, which supplies major firms like Nestle and Unilever, runs a network of sprawling plantations, and employs migrant workers from countries including Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Earlier this year, anti-trafficking group Liberty Shared had petitioned the CBP to ban imports from Sime Darby over concerns about labour abuse.

In October, the US banned imports from another Malaysian palm oil producer, FGV Holdings, following a lengthy probe that found indications its workers faced abuse. 

Sime Darby did not respond to requests for comment. On its website, the company says it believes “we have a responsibility to respect, support and uphold fundamental human rights.”

© Agence France-Presse



Read more articles