Jan 4, 2022
CBP withholds release order on tomatoes produced by farm in Mexico

Since Oct. 21, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at all U.S. ports of entry have detained fresh tomatoes produced by the tomato farm Agropecuarios Tom S.A. de C.V., and Horticola Tom S.A de C.V., and their subsidiaries.

CBP issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against Agropecuarios, Horticola, and their subsidiaries based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor against its workers. CBP identified at least five of the International Labor Organization’s indicators of forced labor during its investigation, including abuse of vulnerability, deception, withholding of wages, debt bondage, and abusive working and living conditions.  This WRO will only affect fresh tomato imports into the United States from this specific farm and its subsidiaries.

“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement established a strong framework for CBP to work closely with our Mexican and Canadian counterparts,” said Troy Miller, CBP Acting Commissioner.  “We trust that the foundations we’ve built with our Mexican partners will allow for a collaborative and multi-lateral response to forced labor enforcement actions within North American supply chains.”

Federal statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor.  CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments have the opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.

In October 2020, Mexican authorities took action against allegations of forced labor conditions on the same tomato farm, demonstrating the Mexican government’s shared commitment to protecting the human rights of workers.

In Fiscal Year 2021, CBP issued seven WROs and two forced labor findings.  The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million workers suffer under conditions of forced labor worldwide.  Foreign companies exploit forced labor to sell goods below market value.  This exposes vulnerable populations to inhumane working conditions like physical and sexual violence, isolation, and restriction of movement.  It also hurts law-abiding businesses, threatens American jobs, and exposes consumers to unwittingly supporting unethical business practices.  It is imperative that importers exercise reasonable care to ensure that the goods they are presenting for importation are not grown, harvested, or produced with forced labor.

Any person or organization that has reason to believe merchandise produced with the use of forced labor is being, or likely to be, imported into the United States can report detailed allegations by contacting CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violations Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.

Follow CBP Office of Trade on Twitter @CBPTradeGov.

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