Following removal of some restrictions by the US Government, Alliance One International—one of nine companies that buy Malawi tobacco—has, with effect from June 3 2020 been allowed to start exporting its Malawi gold to the US market.
In a statement posted on the US Embassy website, mw.usembassy.govt on June 11, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says it has modified the Withhold Release Order (WRO) such that tobacco imported from Malawi by Alliance One International, will be admissible at all US ports of entry effective June 3.
“CBP previously prevented these tobacco imports from entering the United States based on reasonable suspicion that they were produced using forced labour,” reads the statement, in part.
According to the statement, CBP has modified the WRO following a rigorous evaluation of Alliance One International’s social compliance programme and efforts to identify and minimise the risks of forced labour from its supply chain.
It further says 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.
According to executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s office of Trade, Brenda Smith, who is quoted in the statement, CBP recognises the impact that withhold release orders have on importers and exporters and; therefore, diligently works to carefully and thoroughly review petitions and admissibility requests.
“If companies demonstrate that there is no forced labour in their supply chain, we will modify the withhold release order to exclude them,” said Smith.
Speaking in Mzuzu on Friday, during a routine tobacco marketing season update press briefing, Tobacco Commission (TC) chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala welcomed the news from the US and said TC hopes that the modification will be extended to more tobacco buying companies in the country.
“In line with its compliance enforcement responsibility, TC has intensified sensitisation programmes to curb child labour and illegal vending,” he said.
According to Alliance One Tobacco Company, corporate affairs manager Francoise Malila, elimination of child and forced labour in tobacco production has been a top priority for their company for many years, and they are proud that WRO has been modified to exclude them.
“We have made significant advancements on these issues through our Agricultural Labour Practices programme and our traceability platform. We thank all stakeholders for the support they have provided, and continue to provide, to improve working conditions for farmers and farm workers. We look forward to continued collaboration as we build and improve upon the foundation we have built,” she said.
Malawi exports about eight million kilogrammes of tobacco to the US.
In November 2019, CBP issued a WRO on the country’s tobacco, restricting importation of tobacco from Malawi because of alleged use of forced and child labour in tobacco production.