Fire Destroys 200 Hectares at Sime Darby

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A fire has destroyed about 200 hectares of an oil palm plantation owned by Malaysian firm Sime Darby in the northwest of Liberia, Reuters reported, citing company sources on Wednesday, March 19.

Sime Darby has one of the largest oil plantations in the country with a planned total investment of over $2 billion. It has signed an agreement with Liberia to develop about 220,000 hectares of land for 63 years.

So far, it has planted about 10,000 hectares of palm.

But the company has met resistance from some locals who have accused it of not properly informing them of the scale and implications of the project.

Workers at the Bomi plantation, who requested anonymity, said the blaze was started by suspected arsonists and had blazed for about two weeks before being brought under control.

A senior company executive who asked not to be identified said it was not clear how the fire began.

"The damage to our plantation is great. We are putting pieces of information together as to what led to the fire," the official said. "This will certainly have some effect on our plantation operation. We are trying to work with the government to see how they can come to conduct an investigation."

Palm oil is the world's most widely produced vegetable oil and is used in everything from margarine and soap to biofuel. Annual production around the world is valued at about $20 billion.

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