KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — Sime Darby Plantation Bhd’s (SDP) biggest customers have not taken a blanket decision to ban its palm oil and palm oil products following the United States sanctions over forced labour allegations in the production process.
While keeping a lid on its biggest clients, Sime Darby Oils Sdn Bhd managing director Mohd Haris Mohd Arshad said they have given the company ample time to resolve the issue with the condition to keep them apprised.
“They did not make a blanket decision to ban products by SDP, for me, it is a big relief,” he told local business radio station BFM this morning.
Sime Darby Oils is the downstream business arm of SDP.
The Malaysian plantation giant has been slapped with an import ban by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), effective Dec 30, 2020, after being issued with a withhold release order on its palm oil and palm oil products due to allegations of forced labour made by Hong Kong-based anti-trafficking group Liberty Shared (LS) in April last year.
Mohd Haris said SDP has been striving to address the issue by continuing its engagements with CBP and LS, although no updates were provided by the CBP about the investigative findings that LS had.
“Unfortunately, no (update about the findings), but we do engage with them regularly and we had appointed a legal firm to help us connect with the CBP in Washington,” he said.
He said the allegations by LS remained elusive to SDP.
“We don’t know what the allegations are. We have reached out to LS and investigators here in Malaysia, but nothing specific has come out,” he said.
He emphasised that SDP remained concerned over the issue as it is a serious allegation that touches human rights abuses.
“If the abuses are happening in SDP, we will take action because the people who have been abused are at risk,” he said, adding that he wants to ensure the issue does not escalate and cause reputational damage to the company on the global front.
“If we do not address this issue, it may lead to a wider industrial problem, and we cannot afford that.”