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Rubber actors defend ban on unprocessed rubber export

-Say Gov’t is in no error

The exportation of unprocessed rubber undermines the growth and development of the local rubber industry. It denies factories that rely on local latex supplies to maximize their productive strength while putting many jobs at risk.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024-The Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) says the Government of Liberia is in no error in banning the export of unprocessed rubber.

The group which is a major rubber sector actor has unanimously declared its support of the ban, adding that exporting unprocessed rubber out of Liberia denies the government of generating needful taxes and takes jobs away from local employees.

Liberia currently has at least four companies that are engaged in exporting processed rubber. They include Jeety Rubber Factory, Firestone Rubber Plantation, Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC), and the Lee Group.

These companies employed thousands of Liberians at their factories and can only maintain their workforce and meet their production targets if the ban on unprocessed rubber remained in place.

Compared to Liberia, neighboring Ivory Coast which has over a dozen rubber factories-imposed ban on the export of unprocessed rubber on November 21, 2023, as a means of protecting local companies who rely on these locally produced rubber latexes for protection to stay in business.

At their press conference on Tuesday, February 27, RPAL President Wilhelmina G. Mulbah Siaway, cited Article 5 of the Liberian Constitution regarding safeguarding the economy and sustaining value addition as critical points in supporting the government’s decision to ban unprocessed rubber exports.

Additionally, she said allowing the unprocessed export of natural rubber will undermine Liberia’s quota and participation in the Association of Natural Rubber-Producing Countries (ANRPCI) and the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPNSR). 

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 Following a National Congress of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia convened on 23 February 2024 on Cooper Farm, Montserrado County, the group unanimously reaffirmed its unequivocal support for Executive Order 124 which bans unprocessed rubber export.

Immediate past Liberian President George Manneh Weah issued the Executive Order nearing the end of his administration, and it remains in force under current President Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s regime.

President Weah is not alone, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued series of executive orders banning unprocessed rubber export aimed at strengthening the local sector.

According to RPAL, unrestricted export of unprocessed rubber supersedes the sector’s productivity. It laments that for more than five years, the sector has not exported more than 250,000 metric tons of processed rubber. 

RPAL said it was envisaged by 2020 that producers would hit 350,000 metric tons of rubber.

“The exportation of unprocessed nature from Liberia undermines the nation’s GDP. The commodity ends in Nigeria or other countries in the subregion buyers which process the commodity and export same,” said RPAL. 

It continued that the so-called consortium of rubber actors are nonfarmers or nonproducers but middlemen that have been used by the exporters who withhold subscription fees from farmers without remittance to the RPAL and Rubber Development Fund Incorporated (RDFI).

According to RPAL, the Government of Cote D’ Ivoire has legislated a ban on the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber including Ghana’s increasing export earnings. 

“Unless value addition is upheld, promoted, and sustained, the sector risk declines,” it warns.

RPAL’s statement disclosed that the Delegates in the Convention Assembled in Cooper Farm, Todee District, Montserrado County, petitioned the Legislature to enact a law to prohibit the export of unprocessed natural rubber.

Regarding the economic benefits, RPAl said agriculture, including forestry, is the primary livelihood for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population and accounted for 31 percent of Liberia’s 2021 real gross domestic product (GDP).

He emphasized that rubber is a dominant revenue generator, accounting for 12.5 percent of the total export receipts in 2021. 

“Note that 16% of the revenue of Liberia various estimates put the number of people employed by commercial rubber farms at 20,000 and the number of

smallholder households involved in growing rubber trees at 35,00,” said RPAL. 

Globally, the RPAL noted, that importing and exporting raw materials can influence the GDP, its exchange rate, and its level of inflation and interest rate. 

In the rubber sector of Liberia, RPAL observes that many smallholder farmers face problems or challenges with the drop-down of rubber prices with the prices of raw materials always depreciating because of no value, whereas the price of finished rubber is better.

“2. 16% of the revenue of Liberia is generated from the rubber industry and the exportation of Unprocessed Natural Rubber undermines value addition, diminishes revenue adversely impacts the economy,” it said.

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