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Senate votes to establish Board to regulate rubber sector

The Liberian Senate has 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.

By Ethel A. Tweh

Monrovia, May 24, 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.

Additionally, Executive Order 124 prohibiting the exportation of unprocessed rubber from Liberia remains enforced.

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

The committee’s report provided several recommendations, including the establishment of the Board.

It can be recalled that Grand Kru County Senator Albert Chie filed a complaint with the plenary, calling for lifting the ban on unprocessed rubber from the country.

Senator Chie’s complaint was triggered by issues raised by local rubber farmers in the country, accusing the Liberia Agricultural Company, Jetty Rubber Liberia, Limited, and Firestone Rubber Plantation of strangulating their activities and preventing competition.

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In his complaint, Senator Chie stated that the Liberia Agricultural Company, Jetty Rubber Liberia, Limited, and Firestone Rubber Plantation have added no extra value to the rubber sector since their operations in the country.

According to him, those big companies have prevented the progress of the local farmers and have had no impact on the rubber industry here, especially at the Firestone Rubber Plantation.

He called on the Legislature to collaborate with the Executive Branch of Government to lift the moratorium on the exportation of unprocessed rubber.

Chie noted that the decision will allow the local rubber farmers to export their unprocessed rubber from the country equally.

Senator Chie urged the plenary not to grant these three top companies any opportunity by keeping the ban on unprocessed rubber.

He alleged that the companies only take advantage of the local farmers, adding no value to the sector.

The Grand Kru County Senator continued that until the Liberia Agriculture Company, Jetty, and Firestone Companies can begin the production of some products in the country, the Liberian Government should find the need to open competition in the sector.

However, during the Thursday debate on the floor, the Senate Chair on Agriculture, Senator Wellington Geevon-Smith, disclosed that it was established that the local farmers had been involved in the theft on the market.

According to the River Cess County Senator, the committee’s investigation, among other things, further uncovered that small rubber farmers are equally generating funds from the sector.

But he said they failed to remit to the government’s revenue to grow the country’s local economy.

Senator Smith said the Board’s membership will be drawn from all key players in the rubber sector when it is established.

As part of the recommendation, the Committee Chair noted that the Liberian Government should encourage rubber factory owners to operate at their full potential and bring the country up to regional standards.

He indicated that the Liberian Legislature should pass a law on controlling unprocessed rubber from the country and maintain Executive Order 124 prohibiting the exportation of unprocessed rubber until said law is put in place.

Also speaking, Senator Gbehzohngar Findley refuted the claims by Senator Chie that the three companies are not adding any value, stressing that those companies immensely contribute to the economy of Liberia.

He cautioned his legislative colleagues to get off their sentiments in discussing the real issues, noting that contrary to Senator Chie’s and others’ assertions, the local farmers do not pay a dime to government revenue despite the cash and workforce they get daily.

The Grand Bassa County Senator also indicated that LAC, Jetty, and Firestone provide thousands of job opportunities for the citizens.

He urged Senator Chie and the full plenary to adopt the recommendation in the report submitted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

At the same time, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon clarified that his position on the debate is about the Liberian people and not due to his political link to the Rescue Mission of the ruling Unity Party.

Senator Dillon recounted that former President George Manneh Weah passed Executive Order 124, which placed a moratorium on unprocessed rubber from the country.

He explained that the same concrete reasons that led to that executive decision persist within the rubber sector, stressing that lifting the ban will worsen the existing problems.

Senator Dillon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed his firm position and optimism that the plenary will endorse the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Agriculture due to its factual analysis provided.

Following a long debate on the floor, the plenary of the Liberian Senate finally endorsed the committee’s report but with an amendment.

He said a specialized committee should draft an Act establishing the regulatory board within one month.

The motion was made by Montserrado County Senator Saah Hardy Joseph and seconded by Senator Abraham Darius Dillon.

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