The United States Government has yet again modified its ban on tobacco imports from Malawi by allowing Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company to export the leaf to that country’s ports of entry.
The decision is effective July 31 2020 and comes after US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) previously denied tobacco imports from Limbe Leaf entry into that country on suspicion that the leaf was produced using forced child labour.
In a statement issued yesterday, Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner for CBP Office of Trade, said they modified the Withhold Release Order (WRO) against tobacco from Malawi issued last November following a rigorous evaluation of Limbe Leaf’s social compliance programme and efforts to identify and minimise the risks of forced labour from its supply chain.
She said they have produced evidence that sufficiently supports Limbe Leaf’s claims that tobacco from its farms is not produced and harvested using forced labour.
Said Smith: “This modification demonstrates the power of WROs to induce positive change in US supply chains. CBP will prevent any products subject to a WRO from entering the United States until the manufacturer submits proof that there is no forced labour in its supply chain.”
US law prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, manufactured or produced, wholly or in part, by forced labour, including convict labour, forced child labour and indentured labour.
Smith said CBP is committed to identifying and preventing products made by forced labour from entering the United States to maintain a level playing field for the country’s domestic industry.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco Commission (TC) has described the softening of the WRO on Malawi tobacco as a ‘big relief’ to Malawi’s tobacco industry.
TC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said in an interview: “This is a big relief to the industry and the country as it offers hope that our tobacco will continue to be exported into America for as long as we ensure that no child or forced labour is used in its production.”
From tobacco growers point of view, Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Nixon Lita yesterday also described the decision to allow Limbe Leaf export to the US as “very good news” for tobacco growers.
The latest resolution by the US government comes barely two months after Alliance One International, another tobacco buyer on the local market, was also allowed to export tobacco to the US, effective June 3 2020.
Coincidentally, both Alliance One and Limbe Leaf have their parent companies in America.
The WRO continues to apply to imports of tobacco from Malawi by any company that has not demonstrated to CBP that there is no forced labour in its supply chain.
Tobacco industry sources said the WRO put at stake about eight million kilogrammes of Malawi tobacco destined for the US every year valued at around $29 million (about K22 billion) per annum, based on the past six-year average.