U.S. Customs and Border Protection Detains Imports of Raw Sugar and Sugar-Based Products Produced by Central Romana Corporation
Florida - Tuesday December 6, 2022: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel at all U.S. ports of entry will detain raw sugar and sugar-based products produced in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation. The company is a top Dominican producer owned in part by the Florida-based Fanjul brothers.
CBP issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against Central Romana based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in its operations. The order went into effect on November 23.
CBP identified five of the International Labor Organization’s 11 indicators of forced labor during its investigation: abuse of vulnerability, isolation, withholding of wages, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime.
“This Withhold Release Order demonstrates CBP’s commitment to protect human rights and international labor standards and to promote a fair and competitive global marketplace,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller. “The agency will continue to set a high global standard by aggressively investigating allegations of forced labor in U.S. supply chains and keeping tainted merchandise out of the United States.”
Federal statute (19 U.S.C. 1307) prohibits the importation of merchandise produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments can export their shipments or seek to demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.
“CBP continues to set the international standard for ensuring that goods made with forced labor do not enter U.S. commerce,” said AnnMarie R. Highsmith, Executive Assistant Commissioner, CBP Office of Trade. “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.”
Central Romana Response
In response to CPB's action Central Romana issued a news release which states:
"Central Romana Corporation is very disappointed by the decision by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to issue a Withhold Release Order regarding our company’s products. We disagree vehemently with the decision as we do not believe it reflects the facts about our company and the treatment of our employees.
Throughout our history, Central Romana has been committed to providing safe and productive employment for our employees from the Dominican Republic and neighboring nations. We have great respect for every individual who works for our company, regardless of role, and in that regard, we have always provided appropriate wages, housing and other benefits.
Further, we recognize the need to continuously evolve our work environment and the living conditions of our employees, and have for many years invested significantly to do so. This commitment to constant growth is a hallmark of Central Romana.
In the coming weeks and months we expect to engage in a dialogue with CBP about the issues they have raised, and we will share our position fully and transparently. We hope to be able to work collaboratively with CBP to resolve this matter."