Background

Effective May 21, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has removed from the scope of a withhold release order against tobacco from Malawi tobacco from Premium Tobacco Malawi Limited that is harvested by club growers. As a result, such tobacco is now admissible at all U.S. ports of entry.

This WRO was issued in November 2019 based on reasonable suspicion that tobacco from Malawi is produced using forced labor and child labor. However, CBP now states that a rigorous evaluation of PTML’s social compliance program and efforts to identify and minimize the risks of forced labor in its supply chain have produced evidence sufficiently supporting PTML’s claims that tobacco from club growers (smallholder growers that use little or no farmworker labor) is not grown and harvested using forced or child labor.

This WRO continues to require the detention at all U.S. ports of entry of tobacco from Malawi by any company that has not demonstrated to CBP that there is no forced labor in its supply chain. Importers of detained shipments have three months to either export their goods or provide a certificate of origin and detailed statement demonstrating that the goods were not produced with forced labor. If no such documentation is provided, or if it does not establish admissibility, the goods are subject to seizure.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg offers a comprehensive suite of services to help companies address WROs and other forced labor concerns, including supply chain reviews, due diligence strategies, and proactive remediation. For more information, please contact Amanda Levitt (at (212) 549-0148 or via email), David Olave (at (202) 730-4960 or via email), or Nicole Bivens Collinson (at (202) 730-4956 or via email). You can also click here for ST&R’s forced labor resources page.

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