The Management of Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) has revealed its willingness to support small oil palm growers in the country. The company’s Deputy General Manager Rosli Mohammed Taib exclusively told our business desk in Bomi County on July 16 that Sime Darby will be prepared to support and even buy oil palm from local growers in the near future.
“We have a very good plan that encourages and supports small-holder oil palm growers,” he said.
“This is one of the key reasons why we are doing everything to get things running in time.”
Mr. Taib spoke with our reporter a few minutes after the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a modern palm oil mill in Garwula District, Grand Cape Mount County by Sime Darby.
The oil palm mill project, which will cost SDPL approximately US$10 million, is expected to kickoff soon ushering in the Malaysian company’s first-ever palm oil mill in the whole of Africa.
If constructed, the palm oil mill will have the capacity to produce 60 metric tons of fresh fruit branches (FFBs) of crude palm oil (CPO) per hour.
Government officials attending the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday positively reacted to Sime Darby’s latest development project, describing it as ‘important and crucial’ to the improvement of the Liberian economy.
Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly noted that the palm oil mill represents the wishes and aspirations of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“This palm oil mill represents what President Sirleaf has consistently wished for–that concession companies must begin the process of adding values to production. Sime Darby will not just be shipping oil, but the company will produce other finished products locally,” Dukuly said.
While Grand Cape Mount County Senator Abel Massallay said he is impressed that Sime Darby has taken a bold step to build its first mill in Africa in Liberia particularly in Grand Cape Mount County.
The project is expected to be completed by 2015. Mr. Taib stressed the importance of local residents taking ownership of the development and pledged to prioritize the company’s relationship with the project affected communities.
“These communities are very crucial to us and we appreciate their cooperation,” he said. Our reporter was told that a number of communities in Grand Cape Mount County have already agreed to release the land to Sime Darby.
“The local communities are gradually releasing the land because they embrace the good relationship with [Sime Darby] and the development projects the company is undertaking,” Taib confirmed.
He named Zodua Clan and Sinje District in Bomi County as two of the communities that have agreed to release the land.
With plans by Sime Darby to build nine palm oil mills on 150,000 hectares of land by 2025, Mr. Taib expressed how eager the company is to speed up the planting process if the land is released sooner.
“We are prepared to plant as many hectares of land as we can in the shortest possible once the land is released,” Taib said.
He disclosed Sime Darby will build oil refinery in Liberia if the company’s land area reaches 100,000 hectares.
“The refinery will only be built if we have not less than 100,000 hectares. And the refinery is very important because it will help the company to produce lots of made in Liberia value added products from the oil palm,” Taib stated.
In 2009, the government of Liberia signed a concession agreement with Sime Darby and awarded about 220,000 hectares of land to the Malaysian oil palm giant to plant oil palm in Grand Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolu counties.
But the company and the locals had disagreement over land ownership with the latter refusing to release their land thereby slowing commencement of operations.
Breakthrough has now been recorded between the company and the locals, and Sime Darby has now been able to plant over 12,000 hectares of land with several communities now willing to release their land. The Sime Darby agreement has a lifespan of about 63 years.