Stakeholders in the agriculture and business sectors last Friday concluded a one day consultative meeting on the status of the development of Ribbed Smoked Sheets (RSS) of rubber in Liberia.
The meeting was organized by GROW Liberia and brought together over 30 rubber farmers from the 15 counties.
Jaime Reibel, Team Leader of GROW Liberia, said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the growth and development of the RSS industry and how farmers can get access to finance.
He said in order to improve the industry the government and banking institutions should see the need to provide rubber farmers with the required finance.
Reibel said Liberia has remained one of the poorest countries in the world, with an economy heavily reliant on export earnings from the agriculture sector, and promised to change the trend through successful agriculture programming.
Agriculture is the main stream of Liberia’s economy and therefore needs the collective efforts of everybody to join with government to revamp the sector and to grow high-value rubber in Liberia, he said.
He said a five year program funded by the Swedish government through the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) will create an enabling environment in the RSS industry for farmers to get access to loans.
Facilitating the meeting, Mr. Stanford Peabody, Portfolio Manager of GROW Liberia, informed the participants that the meeting was not just about producing RSS, but how they can tackle the issue of finance that affects rubber farmers.
He said there are a lot of farmers who want to explore the rubber market but could not do so because they find it difficult to get loans from commercial banks.
In separate remarks, representatives from the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and ECOBANK told the gathering that commercial banks are willing to give out loan to farmers.
“We want customers to come to the bank and let us discuss the process. We only give loans to people or farmers who are making business or selling their produce,” a bank representative indicated.
However, they admonished farmers not to be deterred or feel weak about getting loans from the banks and noted, “We are there for you.”
RSS is made directly from latex which is treated and then made to coagulate. The coagulated latex sheets are then air dried or smoked in ovens and are visually graded on the basis of certain parameters, and then packed in bales.