President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has expressed delight for FireStone Liberia’s “significant progress” particularly, diversification of activities, which leads to the processing of rubber wood.
After touring FireStone’s rubber wood processing factory in Harbel, Margibi County on Wednesday, President Sirleaf described that component of company’s operation as a “very welcoming initiative because it is a major contribution” to Liberia’s economy.
Last year, FireStone introduced the production of furniture out of rubber woods that the President observes were previously left to rot or use as charcoal. She encouraged the company to expand the rubber wood processing factory, while also encouraging Liberian carpenters and wood processors to use the products for the local market.
But she also requested FireStone Liberia to give technical help to people, who desire to establish the same kind of facility outside of Monrovia, like in Nimba, Bong and other places to enhance job creation across the country.
Though the President applauded the company’s progress, she however said there was still a long way to go. FireStone Liberia President and Managing Director, Edmundo L. Garcia, said they encourage local wood workers, carpenters and businessmen to go into the furniture making business “because rubber wood is beautiful for furniture.”
He told reporters the company is already exporting its products because the local market cannot consume everything being produced, but said they would decrease export if local demand increases.
Mr. Garcia said with the process and technology they have brought in to make rubber wood a valuable wood, the company has been able to convince the local market that rubber is a beautiful wood to use for furniture.
On the overall, he said FireStone has about 7,700 workers, but in the rubber wood processing factory almost 500 Liberians are employed, including three foreigners, who have the expertise and technical know-how to train all of the factory workers.
However, he argued that why FireStone “cannot make tires here is all economic reasons.” According to him, in today’s tire, very little natural rubber goes into them; and most of the rubber that goes into the tires is synthetic rubber that is made from petroleum products.
In further justifying why FireStone cannot produce rubber in Liberia, Mr. Garcia added that all the other parts of the tire and everything else you need to make it into a tire have to be imported. By Winston W. Parley – Editing by Jonathan Browne