Over forced labor allegations, U.S. blocks imports of tomatoes from Mexican farms

(Photo: cbc.ca)

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, October 25, 2021 (Reuters) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Thursday it will bar imports of fresh tomatoes produced by Mexican tomato grower Horticula Tom following accusations it said it had received about the use of forced labor.

A legal representative for Horticula Tom said the company has “no labor problems” and complies with Mexican rules after CBP announced the export restrictions.

Legal representative Rommel Fernandez told Reuters the company had not been notified of the restriction. The farm has more than 600 employees.

On Thursday, CBP issued a Withhold Release Order against the company based on what it said was “information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor against its workers.”

It said in October 2020 Mexican authorities took action against allegations of forced labor conditions on the same tomato farm in Mexico.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has said addressing forced labor allegations are a priority.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday the administration wanted to make “clear that products made in whole or in part by forced labor will not be allowed into the United States… We will remove it from American supply chains.”

CBP also said this week it would bar disposable gloves produced by Malaysia’s Supermax Corp Bhd’s (SUPM.KL) and some of its wholly-owned subsidiaries over forced labor allegations.

Supermax is the fourth Malaysian firm to face such a ban in the past 15 months. The firm’s shares fell nearly 9% on Thursday.

Supermax said it was in contact with CBP to obtain more clarity and that it will speed up a process it had begun in 2019 to meet International Labor Organization (ILO) standards. The company said the United States accounts for about 20% of its total sales.

ILO estimates that 25 million workers suffer under conditions of forced labor worldwide, according to the Biden administration.

Source: Reuters

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