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US Slaps Import Ban on Malaysian Palm Oil Producer

FILE - A mini tractor grabber collects palm oil fruits at a plantation in Pulau Carey, Malaysia, Jan. 31, 2020.

Citing the alleged use of forced labor, the United States announced it has banned the import of palm oil from the Malaysian company Sime Darby Plantation Berhad.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday released a statement saying it has issued a “withhold release order,” allowing it to impound shipments of Sime Darby’ Plantation’s palm oil products made with forced labor.

“This Withhold Release Order 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 in the statement. “American consumers can help end modern slavery by choosing to buy products they know are ethically and humanely sourced.”

US banned imports of its palm oil over allegations of forced labor and other abuses

Palm oil is used in many products from food to cosmetics to biodiesel. Indonesia and Malaysia are principal exporters of palm oil, the production of which has been blamed for deforestation.

The U.S. imported approximately $410 million of crude palm oil from Malaysia in fiscal year 2020, CNN reported.

"Palm oil is an ingredient in a lot of products that American consumers buy and use. And I think it's important for manufacturers and importers to be aware of where they're at higher risk of forced labor, and to demand that their suppliers are adhering to protecting human rights of their workers," Ana Hinojosa, director of CBP's Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Directorate, told CNN.

Sime Darby Plantation did not immediately respond to the ban announcement.

It is the third Malaysian company this year to be slapped with an import ban over allegations of using forced labor.