Liberia’s Agriculture Minister Madam Jeanine M. Cooper says she is very impressed by a state-of-the-art rubber processing plant being established by Indian businessman and philanthropist Mr. Upit Singh Sachdeva or Mr. Jeety.
Minister Cooper and her entourage toured the Jeety Rubber Processing Plant in Cinta, Weala District in Margibi County on Saturday, 15 July 2023.
Through the plant, Liberia could make history by establishing the first surgical gloves-producing factory on the African continent, besides the production of other essential rubber materials that are normally imported here.
“Well, I am very, very impressed. Uh, this is a state-of-the-art rubber processing plant. It’s been a long time since I have seen one set up here in Liberia,” Minister Cooper told journalists following the tour.
She said some of her impressions about the Jeety Rubber Processing Plant is the way things are set up to protect the environment against waste and environmental pollution.
Having toured the plant, the Minister said a circular system is set up so that things are recycled and go into the plant.
Another thing that impressed Minister Cooper is that Mr. Jeety has cut in half his targeted time for the completion of establishing the rubber processing plant.
“He told me 2024, and here we are in the middle of 2023 and he already has the plant. Basically, it is operational, but … hope he’s going to be starting operations in another month, on Flag Day,” he said.
Minister Cooper said she is very proud of what Mr. Jeety has done in one year.
She said she has not seen another factory the size of the Jeety Rubber Processing Plant being established with state-of-the-art technology in the agriculture sector in Liberia.
The Agriculture Minister noted that the Jeety Rubber Processing Plant is one example of President George Manneh Weah’s vision to see manufacturing and processing plants being set up in the agriculture sector of Liberia.
Additionally, Minister Cooper said Mr. Jeety has promised her that by 2024, the Jeety Rubber Processing Plant will start manufacturing rubber articles here in Liberia.
She said everybody talks about the production of tires and surgical gloves. If set up by next year and the surgical gloves are done, Madam Cooper said the Jeety Rubber Processing Plant will be the first surgical gloves factory on the African continent.
She said though rubber is not a smallholder farming crop, so many smallholder farmers have been developed in the sector over the years.
Initially, she said, the system was not set up for smallholding because a minimum amount of rubber trees are needed to be able to realize anything.
To run a rubber plantation, she said so many things are needed besides the market where you are going to sell. She said you need vehicles, import supplies, and make payroll.
According to Minister Cooper, rubber is an expensive cash crop that is difficult for smallholders to make a profit from.
But she said the good thing is that there are a few companies that buy rubber from Liberian farmers.
According to Minister Cooper, Firestone is the main player that buys from Liberian farmers.
But when the FireStone plant breaks down and it can’t buy from Liberian farmers, she said the whole economy feels it.
She recalled that during the Coronavirus crisis when FireStone closed down, the whole economy felt it.
“When FireStone sneezes, all of us will catch a cold. So now we have several others like Nimba Rubber [who] has set up a processing plant, but they too cannot handle even the volume of rubber that comes from the Liberian farmers,” she noted.
In response to the Liberian farmers’ need for cash for the Christmas season, she explained that FireStone recently overbought rubber and didn’t have anywhere to store the rubber.
“And so, they slow down on buying. And everybody else who was coming now couldn’t sell. Now you have alternatives – so Jeety, by setting up a processing plant,” she noted.