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CBP Issues WRO on Major Dominican Sugar Exporter to US

CBP will block imports from Dominican sugar giant Central Romana under a new withhold release order issued by the agency on Nov. 23, it said in a news release the same day. Beginning on Nov. 23, CBP will “detain raw sugar and sugar-based products produced in the Dominican Republic” by Central Romana, after finding “information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in its operation,” CBP said.

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CBP said it found five of 11 of the International Labor Organization’s indicators of forced labor during an investigation of Central Romana: abuse of vulnerability, isolation, withholding of wages, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime.

The WRO follows the Labor Department’s listing of sugarcane from the Dominican Republic in that agency’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor in September (see 2209280025). The State Department also put the Dominican Republic on the tier 2 list of its July 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, CBP said.

Central Romana is the largest landowner in the Dominican Republic, and exports over 200 million pounds of sugar to the U.S. each year, the New York Times said in a report Nov. 23. According to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report issued in April, Central Romana accounted for 59% of Dominican sugar production in the 2020-2021 sugar marketing year, and took 62.84% of the Dominican Republic allocation -- the largest of any country -- of the U.S. tariff rate quota for raw sugar in fiscal year 2021.