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Liberian Senate approves ban on unprocessed rubber export

In late May this year, the Liberian Senate voted to maintain Executive Order 124, which prohibits the exportation of unprocessed rubber until a law to control unprocessed rubber from the country is passed.

Monrovia, June 8, 2024: The Liberian Senate’s plenary has voted to establish a National Board for Rubber to ensure an equitable determination of the monthly price of rubber.

The Rubber Board will regulate the prices of rubber on the Liberian market. Additionally, the Liberian Senate voted that Executive Order 124, which prohibits the exportation of unprocessed rubber from Liberia, remain enforced.

The Senate’s decision upholding the ban on the exportation of unprocessed rubber followed an in-depth investigation by its Committee on Agriculture.

Before the vote, the Senate Committee had recommended to the Plenary the establishment of a board that would be responsible to oversee and regulate the prices of rubber on the Liberian market.

The board, as the committee recommended, will also oversee the activities related to the commercialization of rubber in the sector.

The decision, taken in session on Thursday, 23 May 2024, followed a lengthy debate in the Senate’s Joint Committee on Agriculture and Judiciary.

Pending the establishment of the proposed National Rubber Board, the Senate Plenary agreed to maintain the current moratorium on the export of unprocessed rubber.

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In the wake of the Senate’s approval of the ban on unprocessed rubber export, the Senate Committee on Agriculture has also been mandated to collaborate with all stakeholders to draft legislation establishing the National Rubber Board. The Committee is further mandated to ensure market stability through appropriate regulations.

Introduced by Executive Order 124, the moratorium has been a source of significant controversy since its issuance by former President George Manneh Weah in 2023 nearing the end of his six-year term.

His successor, President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, after months in office, stated that the moratorium became necessary until appropriate policies and frameworks could be put in place to improve the rubber industry’s situation in the longer term, ensuring redevelopment, new development, increased production, increased job opportunities, and increased government revenue.

However, President Boakai gave a two-month grace period in which hepermitted the export of unprocessed natural rubber as of 22 May 2024 because local producers and rubber businesses had suffered unexpected losses following the issuance of Executive Order 124.

He therefore mandated that all exports of unprocessed natural rubber will be halted immediately after the two-month grace period allowed by Executive Order 133.

Executive Order 124 aims to curb abuse and theft within the rubber industry. However, some stakeholders have argued that the policy negatively impacts smallholder rubber farmers and brokers who rely on trading unprocessed rubber.

However, others see the moratorium as crucial for fostering value addition and creating more jobs within the rubber sector.

Similar executive orders were issued during former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s regime to protect the rubber sector. Meanwhile, lawmakers, as well as stakeholders within the rubber sector, remain divided on the moratorium.

Chaired by River-Cess County Senator Wellington Geevon Smith, the committed has suggested that some rubber planters had raised concerns about the capacity to handle unprocessed rubber and the potential reduction in workforce if the moratorium remains in place. The report further detailed concerns about tax remittances from small rubber farmers not reaching government accounts.

The Senate Agriculture Committee therefore suggested the need to establish a National Rubber Board through legislation, with representation from all stakeholders.

Once established, the proposed board would ensure equitable monthly pricing of rubber and encourage rubber factory owners to operate at full capacity, thereby preventing market manipulation.

The Senate Committee additionally urged Liberia to align with regional standards by enacting laws controlling the export of unprocessed rubber.

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