U.S. says sufficient evidence of forced labour at Malaysia's Sime Darby Plantation

2 minute read

A general view of the Sime Darby Plantation headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The United States on Friday said it has sufficient information to determine that Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SIPL.KL) uses forced labour and that the firm's goods are subject to seizure.

Malaysian factories making products ranging from medical gloves to palm oil have increasingly come under scrutiny over allegations they abuse foreign workers, who form a significant part of the manufacturing workforce.

In 2020, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had barred Malaysian products of Sime Darby Plantation, the world's biggest palm oil planter by land size, citing reasonable suspicion of use of forced labour. That allowed the authorities to detain goods at ports.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

On Friday, the CBP published a "finding" on Sime Darby Plantation that would allow it to seize the firm's products.

"Through its investigation, CBP has determined that there is sufficient information to support a finding that Sime Darby Plantation and its subsidiaries are using forced labour on Sime Darby's plantations in Malaysia to harvest fresh fruit bunches, which are used to extract palm oil and produce derivative products," the CBP said in a notice published on the Federal Registrar website.

Such products are likely being imported into the United States, it added.

Responding to the finding, Sime Darby Plantation said it has appointed an independent ethical trade consultancy to audit its facilities across Malaysia.

"Through the in-depth, onsite work done by the independent consultant, SDP is confident the coming publication of the report will demonstrate that the company has internal controls and systems in place to support its workers and ensure their well-being," it said in a statement.

The company had earlier also said it would engage with the CBP to address the concerns raised.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Martin Petty

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.