US to block palm oil imports from Malaysia after forced labor investigations

Physical and sexual violence, and forced child labor

U.S blocking palm tree imports

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The United States will detain shipments of palm oil and its products from a major producer in Malaysia after a wide range of labor abuse indicators were found after an investigation, including physical and sexual violence and forced child labor, an official said Wednesday.

The withhold release order against FGV Holdings Berhad goes into effect immediately following a yearlong investigation, said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Trade.

FGV is one of the world’s largest palm oil companies and is closely connected to Felda, which is owned by the Malaysian government.

The CBP order comes a week after an Associated Press investigation exposed a litany of labor abuses in the palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia, which together produce around 85% of the global $65 billion supply.

Some of the abuses occurred on plantations operated by Felda. The tainted palm oil was traced to the supply chains of the planet’s most iconic food and cosmetics companies like Unilever, L’Oreal, Nestle and Procter & Gamble.

FGV issued a statement over the weekend outlining its commitment to human rights, including steps it was taking to make sure its workers have access to their passports and wages.

Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil, found in roughly half the products on supermarket shelves. Production has exploded globally, soaring from 5 million tons in 1999 to 72 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. alone has seen a 900% spike in demand during that same time.

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