— As LAC, Lee Groups of Enterprises Step In to Purchase Excess Rubber from Farmers
Due to the temporary suspension of rubber purchasing by Firestone Liberia, the leadership of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) says that the management of the Liberian Agricultural Company (LAC) and the Lee Groups of Enterprises have stepped in to purchase excess rubber from farmers.
Wilhelmina G. Mulbah-Siaway, president of the RPAL, who spoke on Wednesday, March 12, 2020, at a press conference in Monrovia, said these business entities are now buying rubber delivered at their respective factory even though the price may slightly be below that of Firestone’s due venue of delivery.
Madam Mulbah-Siaway added that the association realizes that Firestone alone does purchase more than US$3 million worth of rubber from farmers, which she said was helping immensely to contribute to the Liberian economy.
She said: “In view of the attending effects of Firestone’s decision and the ways forward to remedy the situation in the short term the RPAL met with relevant management authorities of these companies to help purchase rubber from small-holder farmers.”
According to her, the association is working diligently with the Agriculture Minister, Jeanine Cooper and her Technical Team, in sourcing funding to upgrade the Nimba Rubber Incorporated and James Cooper Rubber processing factories to make them functional and be able to buy rubber from farmers.
“Additionally, Minister Cooper is also working with us to be able to construct more Liberian owned processing plants around the country,” she added.
The RPAL president further said that when these processing plants or factories are operational and functional and they begin to buy rubber, then such a decision as the present one by Firestone would not have any negative impact on the rubber industry.
Moreover, Madam Mulbah-Siaway said the association has formally informed the National Legislature through the House’s Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the impact of Firestone’s decision in the rubber industry and the national economy.
On February 28, 2020, Firestone Liberia through its Rubber Purchase Department that as of March 1, 2020, it would stop buying unprocessed rubber that is cup lumps or coagulum from Liberian rubber farmers until April 2020.
The company, however, pledged to make every effort to minimize this interruption and will endeavor to resume purchasing before August 25th, if possible.
Small-holder farmers depend on the regular purchase of their rubber inventory — their main source of income — by Firestone, which in turn exports the commodity in bulk to customers abroad.
However, given the consistent decline in the price of the commodity globally and the lack of functioning value-adding facilities for natural rubber in Liberia, the measure by Firestone renders a hiccup in the already fragile industry, especially local farmers at the bottom of the value chain.
In another development, the RPAL has informed all rubber farmers that no rubber farmers should pay any money on accounts of fees or registration money to any group calling itself the National Rubber Brokers and Farmers Union (NARBFU), except as described or authorized by the Liberian Revenue Code of 2000 of rubber sales tax, Rubber Development Fund Incorporated (RDFI).
Madam Mulbah-Siaway said the RDFI tax and RPAL’s due are collected legally by the processors at point of sales.
She said the association has informed the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General of Liberia concerning the unlawful acts of the Rubber Brokers, which Madam Mulbah-Siaway said interfere and embarrass the smooth operation of all rubber farmers during their business transactions or at time of transporting their rubber across the country.