The US government announced Wednesday that it would stop importing sugar and sugar products manufactured in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation Ltd., amid allegations that the company uses forced labor.
An investigation by US Customs and Border Protection found that the company allegedly segregated employees, withheld pay, promoted abusive conditions and pressured them for excessive overtime, the agency said in a press release.
Annemarie Highsmith, of the Trade Department at Customs’ Office, said: “Manufacturers like Central Romana, who break our laws, will face consequences as we remove these inhumane practices from our supply chain.”
A company spokeswoman did not immediately return a text message seeking comment. Central Romana, which has long been the target of such allegations, is the largest sugar producer in the Dominican Republic.
The announcement was applauded by activists who have long condemned the treatment of thousands of workers in the vast Chinese fields, many of them Haitian migrants or their descendants.
“This is something that is needed to improve the situation, reform has been requested for several decades,” Rowdy Joseph, a labor rights activist in the Dominican Republic, said in a telephone interview.
Last year, the Associated Press visited several sugar fields owned by Central Romana, where many workers reported poor pay, being forced to live in overcrowded conditions without running water and restrictions on planting orchards to feed their families. Complained about restrictive rules. Since the nearest market is several kilometers away and its prices are very high.
Joseph said that despite contributing to the fund, at least 6,000 workers never received the pension they were entitled to.
Chinese workers have also organized several protests this year to demand permanent residency after decades of living in the Dominican Republic, which has cracked down on Haitian migration under President Luis Abinader.
Central Romana produced about 400,000 tonnes (363,000 metric tonnes) of sugar in the harvest that ended last year, after producing more than 3.4 million tonnes (3 million metric tonnes) of sugarcane, according to the company.