– Farmers Hopeful for Resumption
Firestone Rubber Plantation announced over the weekend that from August 10 through August 24, 2017, the company would suspend all rubber purchasing “due to the current extreme oversupply of our rubber inventory.”
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.
J. B. Sackie, a rubber farmer in Salala District, Bong County told the Daily Observer that the decision would greatly affect many smallholder rubber farmers, if the announced schedule elapses. While it is true that rubber farmers will be out of business within the next two weeks, the decision to stop rubber purchases from smallholder farmers means some level of economic hardship for rubber farmers.
“Many farmers, especially those in Salala District, depend solely on the rubber business for the support of their families. We do not have any option for the sale of rubber and will appreciate if Firestone would resume rubber purchase very soon,” he stated.
In the announcement, Firestone noted: “We understand the inconvenience and disruption this action may cause our valued farmers. However, due to the current space constraints in our factory, we have no other options,” the Firestone announcement said. “We appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.”