News Column

President Sirleaf Meets With Rubber Farmers Association - Urges Them to Create a Rubber Development Fund

May 5, 2014

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has pledged government's support to the revitalization of the rubber industry following the sharp fall in its production in recent years.

The Liberian President, in a meeting with the Rubber Farmers Association, shared the concern of the Association that unless concerted efforts are made by all sides, the commodity will continue to experience further decrease in production.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf was responding to a briefing by rubber farmers on the current state of affairs of rubber production in Liberia. She met with members of the Association at her temporary office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently.

She expressed concern that her proposal to create a rubber development fund was moving too slow which she suggested if created would serve as a stabilization fund for the industry in case of any future eventuality.

While government is working to address the situation, the Liberian leader suggested that rubber companies save some of their financial assets in the economy to serve as an intervention during such situations and at the same time helping the local economy.

President Sirleaf described the rubber sector as a major economic activity that should not be left alone without government's intervention in its difficult period of the rubber industry.

She believes that the fund, if created as was proposed long ago, would have served as a fallback position for addressing situations arising like the current one. She, however, challenged the sector's actors and relevant government agencies to collaborate in creating such fund.

The Liberian leader further proposed to the farmers to consider intercropping the rubber sector with other agricultural products including rice, sugar cane and/or oil palm which she said would fill in the financial gap created by the drop in rubber production.

She thanked the farmers for working together in maintaining the rubber industry as Liberia's traditional cash crop commodity. She believes that government should stand by the farmers in stabilizing the situation.

Speaking earlier, the head of the interim management team of the COCOPA Rubber Company in Nimba County, Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea, said the current situation facing rubber farmers has led to his inability to service his payroll that cost him at least US$150,000 monthly.

Mr. Karnwea suggested that there is a need for government's quick intervention proposing a loan of US$10 million stimulus package for struggling farmers for the resuscitation of their production. He said rubber farmers like other sectors are finding it difficult to acquire loans which have even made the situation complex.

A private rubber farmer, Mr. Daniel Chea, said illicit tapping is a major factor for the decrease in production.

He suggested that exporting companies like Firestone-Liberia and the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) involve surrounding communities aimed at curbing rubber theft.

According to him, he was successful in reducing rubber theft while serving as security consultant at LAC using the same method that he said paid off very well for the benefit of both the company and the community.

As regards Firestone-Liberia, the drop in production in 2013 has cost them US$122 million and if measures are not put into place, they are expected to record more loses. They expressed willingness to work with other competitors and government in whatever way in solving the problems identified.

During the meeting, Firestone-Liberia, LAC, Salala Rubber Corporation, Lee Group, Morris-America Rubber Company (MARCO), and individual farmers agreed to collectively fight rubber theft through collaboration and information sharing on establishing the origin of rubber latex or lumps and where it is destined for sale.

Individual farmers at the meeting included Margibi County District #2 Representative, Ballah Zayzay; Grand Bassa County Senator, Gbehzongar Findley; and former defense minister, Daniel Chea.

Government's representatives at the meeting included Central Bank of Liberia Deputy Governor, Boima Kamara; National Investment Commission Chairman, Michael Wortoson; Agriculture Minister, Dr. Florence Chenoweth; Commerce and Industry Minister, Axel Addy; and Legal Advisor to the President, Cllr. Seward Cooper.

The meeting by the rubber farmers with President Sirleaf came shortly after she issued Executive Order No. 60 extending a moratorium on the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber.

Executive Order No. 60, signed by the Liberian leader on April 28, it is intended to curb the decline in the Liberian rubber sector until policies and frameworks appropriate to the situation are instituted, and to ensure redevelopment, new development, increased production, increased job opportunities and increased revenue to Government.

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Source: AllAfrica

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