Over 50 farmers, small rubber planters and other stakeholders are attending a weeklong Ribbed Smoked Sheets (RSS) production seminar at Bright Farms’ RSS Learning Center in Kakata, Margibi County.
The seminar is intended to equip farmers with the skills to process their rubber into technical specified blocks for export.
RSS is made directly from latex which is treated and then made to coagulate (to gather together or form into a mass or group). The coagulated latex sheets are then air dried or smoked in ovens.
The seminar is organized by GROW Liberia, an international business developer that is financed by Adam Smith International while the training is facilitated by Dr. Tillekeratne, an international rubber expert and a former director of the Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka.
Dr. Tillekeratne is expected to help develop Liberia’s RSS industry as well as train RSS manufacturers and their affiliated clusters of smallholder rubber producers.
Speaking Monday at the start of the training, the head of Bright Farms, Mr. Richard Bright, said farmers appreciate the training which will help them develop their sector and thereby generate more income.
When farm owners are generating more income, they will be able to pay their workers better and expand their farms, Bright indicated.
GROW Liberia’s team leader, Jaime Reibel, informed the participants that Dr. Tillekeratne has authored several technical guides that have become the basis of rubber and RSS production worldwide.
According to Reibel, GROW’s interest in the rubber sector is to facilitate interventions that will create, strengthen and repair the market-driven rubber value chain.
He said it is not enough to produce technically high grade RSS as an alternative to the sale of raw latex.
Reibel stressed the need for focus to be placed on market mechanisms by way of the value chain which include planting, tapping and transporting latex.
He disclosed that GROW envisages the establishment of upstream factories in Liberia in order to enhance locally produced RSS to manufacture products.
The training will educate farmers on how they can earn better income as well as improve their farms, training facilitator Tillekeratne said.
He said educating farmers on how to make better income will lead to national development.
Also attending the week-long workshop were representatives from GROW’s 15 RSS Business Cluster Developers, the Rubber Planters’ Association of Liberia (RPAL), the National Investment Commission (NIC) and the Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MoCI). Other participants are representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), Afriland First Bank, technical colleges, warehouse businesses and other key stakeholders in the rubber sector.