By Bridgett Milton
River Gee County Electoral District #3 Representative Francis Saidy Dopoh has called on the leadership of the House of Representatives to recall from the Liberian Senate a US$30 million Fouani Brothers oil palm refinery investment bill.
According to Rep. Dopoh, his motion to recall the Investment Agreement of Fouani Brothers Corporation bill forwarded to the Liberian Senate is intended to correct an oversight of the House of Representatives.
The Liberian Senate’s Committees on Judiciary and Concession have commenced debating the US$30 million investment by Fouani Brothers Corporation for the development of an oil palm refinery.
But Dopoh said he has noticed that Section 10 Sub-section C is inconsistent with the intent of granting the incentive to build and operate a palm oil refinery in Liberia.
“Kindly notice that Sections 5.2 and 5 .3 of the Incentive Agreement are reasonable grounds for granting such incentive. But Section 10.1 Subsection C has the propensity to undermine palm oil production in Liberia, by giving duty-free to Fouani Brothers Corporation to import vegetable oil in Liberia,” said Mr. Dopoh.
According to him, Liberians are trying to build their industry and there is a very huge investment in palm oil plantations in Liberia by GVL and MOPP.
He noted that other companies would be destabilized if Fouani Brothers were given duty free for the importation of finished oil in Liberia.
The bill has since been forwarded to the Liberian Senate for concurrence, but it also raises concerns over the terms of the deal.
A specific area of contention is the provision allowing duty-free importation of crude palm oil (CPO) into the country, leading some senators to label the agreement as detrimental to Liberia’s economy.
When the bill is passed, Fouani Brothers is expected to benefit from a 15-year incentive agreement. And if the deal is ratified, Fouani Brothers has promised to create 25 direct jobs and 50 indirect jobs in Liberia.
According to the senate committee, Section 11 of the agreement provides that in the event of insufficient locally available crude palm oil to meet the refinery’s requirements, the investor can import the necessary crude palm oil with prior approval from the Minister of Agriculture.
The controversial agreement, which was passed by the House of Representatives, has raised concerns among senators such as Bomi County’s Edwin Snowe.
Sen. Snowe said this could create a monopoly that would force smaller producers out of the crude palm oil business, potentially resulting in significant losses for investments in plantations and refineries across the country.
At the same time, Snowe has called on the Executive Branch to withdraw the deal, describing it as detrimental to the economy and to local farmers and companies that have invested heavily in the palm oil sector.