Dominican Sugar Producers Association tries to resolve forced labor issue

Dominican Sugar Producers Association tries to resolve forced labor issue

US blocks sugar imports from top Dominican producer over forced labor concerns – Reuters

A Dominican court has ordered a state sugar monopoly to stop selling at least two sugar mills owned by a Venezuelan-based firm over alleged forced employment practices by its workers, including the use of child labor, which violates Dominican law.

According to Reuters, the government of Dominican Republic asked the court to remove two Sugar S.A. mills from the country’s top list of sugar producers, which is used by the United States government to measure its compliance on the issue of child labor.

The court’s decision is being appealed.

Dominican officials are trying to reach a resolution with Venezuela’s Sugar S.A., which bought the two mills, to buy and return them to operation, after the company had closed for about two years in 2013.

“It is unacceptable for us to allow our company to pay for the protection of child labor and forced labor with the blood of our children,” said Jose Luis Rodriguez, president of the Dominican Sugar Producers Association.

“We are ready to discuss our concerns with the relevant authorities and find a solution,” Rodriguez added.

According to the U.S. government, an estimated 1,000 child laborers in the Dominican Republic labor in agriculture-related enterprises, with an average wage rate of $120 per month.

Forced labor is widespread in the country, which is one of the top suppliers of sugar to the United States and a source of cheap foreign currency.

According to the United States Department of Labor, there were 5,000 suspected cases of child labor in the Dominican Republic in 2012.

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