Statement by Mr. Alassane T. Doumbia, Executive Chairman of the Board, SIFCA Group of Companies, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Owner of Cavalla Rubber Plantation (CRC) and Maryland Palm Oil Plantation (MOPP), Pleebo, Maryland. Pleebo, Maryland, April 20, 2018
Good afternoon, my dear brothers and sisters of Maryland County. I bring you warm greetings from your brothers and sisters across the Cavalla River, Ivory Coast. I also bring especially warmest greetings from SIFCA, the company that gave birth to CRC and MOPP, our rubber and palm oil corporations that many of you have been involved with in the past years.
We arrived here just 5 to 6 years ago to take over farmlands that had been abandoned and were lying dormant and took a bet that what other people left behind, we can revive. My father, myself and many members of our team were warmly received by the people of Pleebo-Sodoken District and the Government of Liberia.
And because of that hospitality, warm friendship and your willingness to work with us, we decided to take the challenge and invest in Maryland. This was back in 2008-9. We knew from the beginning that things will not be easy; but we also knew that if we hold hands and work hard together, you and us, not just the company, all of us can make this to work.
We founded the two companies because we were sure that this land is very productive, the people hard working and there was no reason that we couldn’t make it. We have heavily invested in CRC and MOPP, in terms of money, personal efforts and other resources. But before we could do anything, we talked to the Government of Liberia and were introduced to you.
It took many months of negotiations for the two companies to become a reality and to be productive. SIFCA has a long history of success in agrobusiness. We are in Senegal, in Ghana, in Nigeria and, of course, in Cote d’Ivoire, your neighbor and our home country. Now we are in Liberia and we want to make this project as successful as in other countries.
In Cote d’Ivoire, we are the largest employer after the government. We have a lot of experience in working with communities and governments. We invest in people we work with, because when workers are happy, the company is successful. Everywhere we go, we empower people. We know that our success depends very much on their wellbeing and on their feeling a part of the company.
We don’t see MOPP and CRC as separate from the rest of Pleebo, Maryland County, Liberia. We are part of you and we must work together to make good things happen for everyone. I have been here many times, and I always meet with the staff and we discuss how to improve things. It’s not always easy, and as human beings working together, there are misunderstanding and friction.
We cannot avoid that. But we can sit down together, talk about our differences and reach compromise, looking at the big picture. That is how we always work. We look at the big picture. For us, the big picture is to make prosperity available to everyone. We are a private company, we work to make profit; but we know that the only way we can get a profit is when people work with us, and that they gain something and feel a part of the company.
I invite all of you to feel as part of MOPP and CRC. Every day and every night, people cross this Cavalla River in both directions. They go by canoe or by car. They attend baptisms, weddings and funerals and other family events. So, no matter the borders, we are one people. When things are good in one country, everyone benefits and when things are bad in one country everyone suffers.
We are neighbors and family. I want you to look at the company as something that is part of you. We invest in a land that is yours and you work with us and everyone wins. There have been some issues in the past few months, issues that could have escalated into a major crisis. I want to thank everyone in Pleebo and Maryland, the youth and their leaders, the elders and traditional chiefs, the women and everyone for making sure that whatever problems that are out there, we can resolve them in peace through dialogue.
Today is a joyous milestone for all of us and we must celebrate this moment. We are now starting on a new road and we must hold together. We provide jobs, skills training, capacity building, social projects; the community provide the land and the workers. Currently, MOPP and CRC employ more than 3,000 people in full time jobs.
Every month, we spend close to half a million dollars just in salary. You all know that the price of rubber has gone down massively in the past few years. The price of rubber in the world marked dropped significantly. In as much as this situation brought difficult financial times, we kept the work force and we paid the people the same salaries they were getting when things were good. That is how committed we are to the community.
We support a scholarship program at Tubman University and as member of the Board, we insist that agriculture and research be emphasized. We have a very well-staffed clinic in Pleebo, and we are looking into bringing a full-time doctor soon after the details have been worked out. We have and continued to invest in the out-grower program and we want to extend the process further, so that farmers, people who have land, can make some good income.
We contribute to the social development fund in keeping with corporate responsibility. Sometimes, we even go further. Like today, the money we are giving you we do it for the government. The Government of Liberia was supposed to pay this amount but knowing the financial difficulties of the country, we are doing that for you.
We want to create prosperity, but this will not and cannot happen if we cannot operate in an atmosphere of peace, security and partnership with the community. When people threaten other people and they create tension, no one benefits. So, I am here today to ask you to embrace these two companies as your own. I am sure someone you know works for CRC and MOPP and you want that person to continue to make money and support their family.
I was hoping to be here the last time when Minister of Internal Affairs Honorable Varney Sirleaf came here. But I was away on a mission. We heard all the issues that you raised with him and we have listened and will continue to listen. We want to thank you for being patient but now we must move. IF CRC and MOPP are successful, you will benefit.
Your children will go to good schools, the sick people will get medication, you will have enough money to take care of yourself and your family. That is what we all want and that is what we are making possible. This morning, we met with His Excellency President George Manneh Weah. He told us how important agriculture is to him.
He gave us his encouragement for our joint venture; we are now preparing with GVL to build the biggest palm oil mill in the region. The project is well advanced, and the construction of the factory will soon start. I encourage all of you who have farmland to take advantage of this process. Because the factory will be producing 80 tons of palm oil per hour.
The factory is a clear testimony of our confidence in Liberia. We will not want to put more money here if we didn’t know it will work. Long before the republics of Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia, our people lived and worked together and shared everything. There is no reason why we cannot emulate that now. We have a very professional and dedicated staff, and they do everything they can to serve the community and the company they work for.
Our staff are your brothers and sisters. We want you to work with them, protect them and make sure they feel at ease in doing their job. The management will organize discussions with your leadership so that we all get to know how to work and live together, for the benefit of everyone.
I thank you.