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Bong: Rubber Farmers angry with Firestone Liberia

By: Joseph Titus Yekeryan

Aggrieved rubber farmers in Tugbablee District have expressed frustration over the failure of Firestone Liberia to purchase their rubber for nearly five months now.

The farmers said they entered an agreement with Firestone to purchase their rubber after harvesting, but the company has not looked to them since November 2022.

“We agreed that only Firestone will be buying our rubber but since November last year, they have not even taken one ton from us and our rubbers are being stolen by unknown people. Besides that, they are getting dry in the sun by the day.” Moses Kellen, the head of the rubber Farmers in Tugbablee said on behalf of his group.

Mr. Kellen stated that their produce is diminishing by the day as they have been lying in the sun since November.

He said the situation has constrained farmers to sleep by their rubber to protect them from criminals.

They complained that Firestone Liberia’s action has rendered them embarrassment and untold suffering, as their children have been put out of schools, while their wives quarrel with them over their failure to take care of their homes.

They want the company to purchase their rubber immediately to save them from embarrassment.  

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Responding to the farmers’ quest, Firestone Liberia Purchase Manager, Jimmy Hina appealing to the farmers said the company has been challenged.

Hina asserted that the company has a huge stockpile in its warehouse, because of the reprocessing of huge quantities of rubber shipped back to them by a company in the United States for proper processing. 

He stated that the company has not been able to purchase its monthly target since January this year, because of the situation.

He pleaded with the farmers to exercise patience; noting that the company is working out modalities to begin active buying beginning May.

During the 1920s, the United States access to rubber was restricted by the European colonial powers (Britain and the Netherlands), which held a monopoly in rubber production.

 Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, considered rubber a vital resource due to its usage for car tires and began working with American rubber companies in order to find a rubber source that was controlled by US interests.

  Part of a Department of Commerce-subsidised worldwide search for a place for rubber plantations, rubber magnate Harvey Samuel Firestone sent experts to Liberia in December 1923 to do a soil survey.

In 1926, the Liberian government granted Firestone a 99-year lease for a million acres (to be chosen by the company wherever in Liberia) at a price of 6 cents per acre, Firestone then set about establishing rubber tree plantations of the non-native South American rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis in the country, eventually creating the world’s largest rubber plantation. 

 The United States government was involved in the off-shore rubber production operation from the outset, as scholar Christine Whyte point out:

“The deal had the approval of the US State Department, who hoped that the huge contract would keep Liberia within the American sphere of influence, without necessitating direct governmental control.

 The last-minute addition of a twenty-five-million-dollar loan attached to the concession was intended to ensure that American corporate influence dominated.

The Firestone Plantation was originally envisioned for 350,000 people to be employed on the newly created plantations.

However, this was more than the number of able-bodied men in the entire nation at the time, which created intense pressure for labor.

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One Comment

  1. Full of falsehoods.
    Blame Firestone for all the whims and challenges of a country. Others buy rubber, but Firestone is an easy target.
    Tacky Journalism at its worst!

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