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Sime Darby seeks details after activist group petitions US to ban its palm oil

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Malaysia is the world's second largest producer and exporter of palm oil, which is found in everything from chocolate to lipstick. It has in recent years battled criticisms of rampant clearing of tropical forest for new plantations and poor treatment of workers.

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA'S Sime Darby Plantation has asked Liberty Shared for more information, it said on Friday, after the activist group made labour abuse allegations in a petition to the United States urging it to ban imports of Sime Darby palm oil.

The Hong Kong-based antitrafficking group said this week it had asked the US Customs and Border Protection to block Sime Darby's products after finding the presence of forced and child labour on their estates.

Sime Darby said it has asked Liberty Shared for further information of the "breaches and serious allegations" in the petition.

"Any non-compliance to our commitments (to uphold human rights) will be addressed swiftly and firmly, after thorough investigations are concluded," it said in a statement on Friday.

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Sime Darby, the world's largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil, estimates its exports to the US at US$3 million annually.

The allegations could hurt Malaysia's efforts to brand its palm products as sustainable, as anti-palm oil sentiment increases internationally.

The petition against Sime Darby follows two similar petitions against Malaysia's FGV Holdings, the world's biggest crude palm oil producer, last year.

Malaysia is the world's second largest producer and exporter of the cheap edible oil found in everything from chocolate to lipstick. It has in recent years battled criticisms of rampant clearing of tropical forest for new plantations and poor treatment of workers.

Around 84 per cent of palm plantation workers in Malaysia, or around 337,000 workers, are migrants from countries including Indonesia, India and Bangladesh. REUTERS

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