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US officials in Malawi on child labour

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Kondwani Nankhumwa

United States Executive Assistant Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Brenda Smith, jetted into the country on Sunday to follow up on the Withhold and Release Order imposed on Malawi tobacco in November 2019.

On Tuesday, Smith and her delegation had meetings with officials from the Ministries of Labuor, Agriculture and Trade, as well as the Tobacco Commission (TC).

The delegation also met some tobacco companies and tobacco growers.

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TC Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, confirmed the visit Wednesday, saying it was a fact finding mission to appreciate progress the country has made to eliminate child labour in the tobacco value chain.

Following the issuance of the withdraw release order on tobacco from Malawi and products containing tobacco from Malawi, the products are detained at all US ports of entry.

CBP said in a statement on November 1, 2019 that it issued order based on information collected by the agency that reasonably indicates the tobacco from Malawi is produced using forced labor and forced child labor.

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“CBP wants to ensure the business community is compliant with the law requiring clean supply chains with no use of forced labor of any kind,” Smith said in the statement.

The CBP indicated that while the order would require detention of tobacco from Malawi at all US ports of entry, the order is not a ban.

“Rather, importers may offer proof that their tobacco and tobacco-containing products do not include tobacco from Malawi that was produced with labor prohibited under US law.

“Importers of shipments detained under this withdraw release order are also provided an opportunity to export their shipments under certain circumstances,” CBP said.

As at November last year, CBP had issued seven withdraw release orders , showing the agency’s commitment to identifying and preventing products made with the use of forced labor.

Agriculture Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, told reporters at the start of the 2019 Tobacco Industry Conference that government was reviewing the tenancy system which is a bone of contention but also perceived to be catalyst to child and forced labour.

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