The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Nathaniel Blama, has accused some oil palm companies of being the worst violators of the country’s environmental laws and regulations.
In a strongly-worded statement, the EPA boss named Sime Darby as one of the worst offenders for failing to uphold even a single environmental law of the country during its time of operation before that company folded and sold its operations to a different entity.
Mr Blama explained that while Malaysian companies are on record for being the worst offenders, almost all oil palm companies operating in the country are not in compliance with the country’s environmental laws and regulations.
“Sime Darby left its environmental liabilities with the new company that took over its operations and this is terrible. This is one of the missteps that many companies have committed over the past years which undermine national processes and soon, we will stop this,” said Blama. However, some companies are in compliance with national environmental laws, Blama told participants attending a two-day retreat organized by Solidaridad-Liberia in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), UNDP, Conservation International (CI) and the Good Growth Partnership. The retreat was organized to discuss the 2020 National Oil Palm Platform (NOPPOL) draft policy document.
Minister Cooper calls for practical actions
Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture, Jeanie M. Cooper urged NOPPOL to work toward increasing the number of private businesses on the platform. Liberian private sector actors are the ones trying to stand on their feet and already have Liberian palm oil on the international scene, Minister Cooper noted.
“I am not talking about the concessions and smallholders supported by NGOs, with all due respect to them, but the Liberian private sector in the oil palm industry who are not represented on this platform. Corrections have to be made by including them on the platform,” Minister Cooper insisted.
She said while the respect is being given to the concessions because they provide agriculture contributions to Liberia’s GDP and are driving growth, her Ministry will seek to promote the local Liberian private sectors involved in oil palm production and export.
She added that practical actions must be taken now in the oil palm sector instead of studies and assessments which have been done over and over with no action.
“I see the oil palm work plan for 2020 and I don’t see the practical actions to spur the growth and development of the oil palm sector,” she said.
“I only see strategies, assessments and reviews. [We need] less of those as we already have the strategies, laws and studies. Let’s work on how to practically support our Liberian local oil palm sector to be a source of premium quality oil palm products from Liberia on the international market”, she said.
Referring to the cassava sector, Minister Cooper said similar assertions have been made to the cassava and rubber sectors to get Liberian private actors vigorously involved in order to see them grow and thrive which is part of her vision.
In his remarks, the chairperson of NOPPOL, Francis Mwah, backed the EPA boss’ statement and called on oil palm companies in Liberia to abide by environmental laws governing the oil palm sector.
“There is a need to conduct the High Conservation Value (HCV), which is of critical importance to oil palm production. It is also crucial to the biological, ecological, social or cultural values associated with tree crop production,” he said.
NOPPOL consists of a group of stakeholders from both the private and public sectors. They gather monthly to discuss a variety of issues on Liberia’s oil palm industry.