Rubber giant Firestone Liberia (FSLB) has announced plans to restart certain segments of its business but with a hold on outside purchase of rubber until otherwise necessary to do so.
A release from Firestone Liberia notes that the COVID-19 threat to the population is highly imminent and that health authorities have not provided any greenlight that can pave the way for outside business.
“Outside purchase of rubber remains on hold until further notice due to the ongoing COVID-19 precautions and a current oversupply of raw material on hand,” said the release.
It added, “The company has been working closely with the Government of Liberia on details of the restart, and also in consideration of the State of Emergency Order presently in place.”
It can be recalled that in recent times Firestone Liberia recorded its first case of the Coronavirus that left the company with no other alternative but to lock down its facilities and suspend operations in some areas it may consider nonessential.
Firestone Liberia has an absolute monopoly over rubber purchases in Liberia. Before the Coronavirus began spreading, the company halted purchase from local farmers, and this has brought a serious economic setback to farmers who rely heavily on their rubber for income generation.
Unlike cocoa and coffee that once served as major sources of income for local farmers, rubber has become dominant such that it has drawn a lot of small scale farmers. With Firestone’s absolute monopoly, no farmer can sell rubber in the country until it (Firestone) is ready to purchase at the rate it wishes to offer.
With this indefinite suspension of outside purchase, farmers’ rubber will remain stockpiled on the farms and will go without income from their product for a long period of time.
Firestone Liberia Management has emphasized that the well-being and safety of FSLB employees remains the most important value. To ensure the health and safety of our workers, company operations will resume in alignment with the latest safety protocol guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in close coordination with the Government of Liberia Ministry of Health,” the release said, adding, “These include hand-washing and temperature and overall wellness checks.”
In addition, the Firestone Medical Center, and all company medical facilities, remain open and accessible to employees and their dependents. Initial plans are to resume the company’s tapping and manufacturing operations, along with select services supporting these functions.
In addition, until further notice, the outside purchase of natural rubber remains on hold due to current COVID-19 precautions and an oversupply of raw material on hand. “The company’s start-up plans reflect a need to resume operations, so we can safely put our employees back to work as soon as possible.
The management of Firestone Liberia will continue to monitor all aspects of its restart activities and adjust plans as necessary to promote a safe and healthy working environment for its employees, while also addressing the needs of customers and the market,” the release concludes.