Today's Paper Arkansas News Public Notices Elections Core Values Newsletters Sports Archive Obits Puzzles Opinion Story Ideas
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Firm’s sugar blocked over abuse claims

by DANICA COTO The Associated Press | November 24, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
FILE - A youth plays near the machine where the sugar cane is weighed in the Lima batey, or neighborhood, in La Romana, where Central Romana Corporation, Ltd. operates its sugar operations in Dominican Republic, Nov. 17, 2021. The U.S. government announced Nov. 23, 2022 that it will detain all imports of sugar and related products made in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation, Ltd. amid allegations that it uses forced labor. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The U.S. government announced Wednesday that it will detain all imports of sugar and related products made in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation Ltd. amid allegations that it uses forced labor.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigation found that the company allegedly isolated workers, withheld wages, fostered abusive working and living conditions and pushed for excessive overtime, the agency said in a news release.

"Manufacturers like Central Romana, who fail to abide by our laws, will face consequences as we root out these inhumane practices from U.S. supply chains," said AnnMarie Highsmith with the agency's Office of Trade.

A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately return a text message seeking comment. La Central Romana, which has long faced those types of accusations, is the Dominican Republic's largest sugar producer.

The announcement was cheered by activists who have long decried the treatment of tens of thousands of workers who live and work on sprawling sugarcane fields, many of them Haitian migrants or descendants of them.

"This is needed to improve their situation," Roudy Joseph, a labor rights activist in the Dominican Republic, said in a phone interview. "We've been asking for improvements for decades."

The Associated Press last year visited several sugarcane fields owned by Central Romana where workers complained about a lack of wages, being forced to live in cramped housing that lacked water and restrictive rules including not being allowed to grow a garden to feed their families since transportation to the nearest grocery store miles away was too costly.

Joseph noted that at least 6,000 workers also are demanding pensions they never obtained despite paying their dues.

Sugarcane workers also have organized several protests this year to demand permanent residencies after working for decades in the Dominican Republic as the country cracks down on Haitian migrants under the administration of President Luis Abinader in a move that has drawn heavy international criticism.

Central Romana produced nearly 400,000 tons of sugar in the harvest period that ended last year after grinding more than 3.4 million tons of cane, according to the company.

Print Headline: Firm’s sugar blocked over abuse claims

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT