US says it will block palm oil from large Malaysian producer

Margie Mason and Robin Mcdowell
Associated Press

An official from U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday the agency will detain shipments of palm oil and its products from FGV Holdings Berhad in Malaysia after a wide range of labor abuse indicators were found, including physical and sexual violence and forced child labor.

A young girl collects palm oil fruit on a palm oil plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia, Nov. 13, 2017. Some workers who fail to meet impossibly high quotas can see their wages reduced, forcing entire families into the fields to make the daily number.

The withhold release order will be effective immediately following a yearlong investigation, said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner at the agency’s Office of Trade.

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

The order comes days after an Associated Press investigation exposed a litany of labor abuses in the palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia, including on a Felda plantation.