The General Manager of Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL), Mr. Roslin Azmy Hassan, told reporters last week that even though the company continues to face many challenges as is typical of any company’s early growth and development, SDPL is on the verge of building a modern oil palm refinery in Bomi County, Liberia.
“We have completed the feasibility studies for the refinery and so the project will hopefully materialize this year,” he said, adding that building a refinery is part of SDPL’s concession agreement with the government of Liberia.
The refinery will further enhance his company’s confidence in Liberia while exposing the country’s investment potential. The refinery will pave the way for the Malaysian oil palm giant to process its raw oil palm into finished goods. The announcement comes as SDPL has already begins scout harvesting some of its oil palm products, which are already ripening.
If built on schedule, the refinery will create additional employment for the people in the concession areas. To buttress the general manager’s comments, Already, SDPL has gone over and beyond its call to civic duty, building several schools, clinics, and recreation centers for its employees and their families.
Mr. Sharmarhoddin Abu Samah, chief engineer of the refinery, disclosed that SDPL will build a refinery for every 70,000 hectares of land planted by the concessionaire. Mr. Samah, however, told our business desk that the project is cost-intensive and requires some technical steps. The refinery is to be constructed by engineers from Malaysia. Local skills and labor will be prominently featured, this paper was told,
The government of Liberia, in 2009, awarded over 220,000 hectares of land to Sime Darby in a concession agreement that has a lifespan of 63 years.
A year later in 2010, the company began operations in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, but were limited to the former Guthrie Rubber Plantation that once commanded no more than 10,000 hectares of land. Community residents and traditional landowners in the two counties have been reluctant to surrender much land to the company beyond those limits, citing “traditional lands” and other constraints related cultural and economics.
Though the concession agreement requires that SDPL to engaging in community development programs, which the company is abiding by, the locals are said to be requiring more from the Malaysian investor then it expected.
Mr. Hassan admitted to frustrations encountered by his company, but insisted that SDPL’s primary concern—at least for the time being—is to ensure that it reconciles itself with the communities. “We didn’t just come here to do business; we also have a mandate to help out of poverty, the people in the communities that we are investing in,” Mr. Hassan declared.
One of such responsibilities is the training of young university students in agriculture and oil palm management. The students are mainly from the University of Liberia; they are being trained at the company’s headquarters in Bomi County.
Mr. Hassan told our reporter that SDPL is preparing for a better future as it trains young Liberians to take over the management of the company.
“These young people are the ones that will take over this company and manage it tomorrow,” he added. He predicted that the time will come when SDPL will be 100% managed by Liberians.