President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is urging the Rubber Planters Association (RPA) to create a Rubber Development Fund (RDF) that would help keep the sector from unforeseen situations such as the sharp fall in production being experienced in recent years.
RPA is experiencing a drastic reduction in the production of rubber, which is adversely affecting its membership as well as other local planters in the country.
Speaking with the RPA leadership in Monrovia during a meeting recently at the Foreign Ministry, President Sirleaf reiterated the need for a development fund to be established by the association, as it would serve meaningful purposes.
She told RPA members that while government is working to address the situation, rubber companies should save some of their financial assets in the economy to serve as an intervention during such situations, which would also buttress the local economy.
The Liberian leader also expressed the belief that the fund, if created as was proposed long ago, would serve as a fallback for addressing situations arising such as the current price drop. She challenged the sector’s actors and relevant government agencies to collaborate in creating such a fund.
The Liberian President noted that unless all sides make concerted efforts, the commodity would continue to experience further decrease in production.
She indicated that the rubber sector is a major economic activity that should not be left alone without government’s intervention in its difficult period of the rubber industry.
President Sirleaf, however, pledged government’s support to the revitalization of the rubber industry following the sharp fall in its production in recent years.
The Liberian leader further proposed to the farmers to consider intercropping the rubber sector with other agricultural products including rice, sugar cane and/or oil palm which she said would fill in the financial gap created by the drop in rubber production.
She thanked the farmers for working together in maintaining the rubber industry as Liberia’s traditional cash crop commodity. She believes that government should stand by the farmers in stabilizing the situation
The head of the interim management team of the COCOPA Rubber Company in Nimba County, Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea, said the current situation facing rubber farmers has led to his inability to service his payroll that costs him at least US$150,000 monthly.
Mr. Karnwea suggested that there is a need for government’s quick intervention proposing a loan of US$10 million stimulus package for struggling farmers for the resuscitation of their production.
He said rubber farmers like other sectors are finding it difficult to acquire loans, which have even made the situation complex.
For his part, Mr. Daniel Chea, a private rubber farmer, said illicit tapping is a major factor contributing to the decrease in production.
Mr. Chea suggested that exporting companies such as Firestone-Liberia and the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) involve surrounding communities with the aim of curbing rubber theft.
According to him, he was successful in reducing rubber theft while serving as security consultant at LAC using the same method that he said paid off very well for the benefit of both the company and the community.
As regards Firestone-Liberia, the drop in production in 2013 has reportedly cost the company US$122 million. If measures are not put into place, company representatives said, they are expected to record more loses. They expressed willingness to work with other competitors and government in whatever way in solving the problems identified.
During the meeting, Firestone-Liberia, LAC, Salala Rubber Corporation, Lee Group, Morris-America Rubber Company (MARCO), and individual farmers agreed to collectively fight rubber theft through collaboration and information sharing on establishing the origin of rubber latex or lumps and where it is destined for sale.
Individual farmers at the meeting included Margibi County District #2 Representative, Ballah Zayzay; Grand Bassa County Senator, Gbehzongar Findley; and former defense minister, Daniel Chea.
Government’s representatives at the meeting included Central Bank of Liberia Deputy Governor, Boima Kamara; National Investment Commission Chairman, Michael Wortoson; Agriculture Minister, Dr. Florence Chenoweth; Commerce and Industry Minister, Axel Addy; and Legal Advisor to the President, Cllr. Seward Cooper.
The meeting by the rubber farmers with President Sirleaf came shortly after she issued Executive Order No. 60 extending a moratorium on the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber.
Executive Order No. 60, signed by the Liberian leader on April 28, is intended to curb the decline in the Liberian rubber sector until policies and frameworks appropriate to the situation are instituted, and to ensure redevelopment, new development, increased production, increased job opportunities and increased revenue to Government.