Liberian Rubber Farmers Urged to Add Value to Product
Kakata, Margibi County – The newly-elected president of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL), Wihelmina G. Mulbah-Siaway, has stressed the need for rubber farmers in the country to increase their holdings and add value to their natural rubber production in order to revamp the industry.
Madam Mulbah-Siaway said rubber farmers especially smallholders make up the majority of the rubber producers, adding that farmers have been earning their livelihood from rubber farming, but the declining price of natural rubber has affected many of these farmers to the point of forcing some to shut down.
“We believe there is light at the end of the tunnel so we encourage all farmers to continue to increase their holdings and add value which is the theme of this congress. Let me inform you that Ivory Coast farmers like their Liberian counter-parts faced similar conditions of low price and lack of other incentives a few years ago but with tenacity and commitment they continued production and today they are now the first in Africa,” Wihelmina said.
She attributed the massive progress in the Ivoirian’s rubber industry to value chain addition to their natural rubber production, stressing the need for Liberian farmers to imitate such.
The RPAL’s president noted that one of the ways to add value to rubber is the building of processing plants to purify natural rubber, thus adding more value to rubber production in Liberia.
She at the same time disclosed that as part of effort to get Liberia transcend from natural rubber production, she is constructing a rubber processing plant that is nearing completion to commence the production of processed rubber.
Speaking earlier, Agriculture Minister-Designate, Ms. Jeanine Milly Cooper, expressed her disappointment that despite Liberia being involved in the cultivation of natural rubber for nearly 100 years, the country is still lacking behind in the manufacturing of rubber materials.
“To Liberian farmers and rubber producers, we can’t stay here and just be planting and just depended on how mush Firestone is going to pay us for a pound. If we stay here only planting and selling to somebody else including Firestone and others, we are not going to move forward,” Ms. Cooper asserted.
The Agriculture Minister Designate serving as keynote speaker at the two-day event admonished members of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) to concentrate on investing in the manufacturing of products made from natural rubber.
Continuing, Ms. Cooper added that: “I am told that there over 500 products that you can make out of raw rubber and even beyond that there are probably thousands of products that you can make from your own industry that come around rubber and we need to have those factories here!”.
She acknowledged that most African countries’ developments are nowadays being driven by medium and small enterprises, noting that establishing rubber-manufacturing factory doesn’t require millions of dollars as it being perceived.
“We need to start looking at the things we need here, that we can do here with what we have,” the Agriculture Minister-designate recommended amid applause from the audience.
Over the weekend, members of RPAL from across the country converged in Kakata, Margibi County for the association’s sixth national congress.
The congress is in accordance with the organization’s by-laws and constitution which mandates the leadership to hold a national congress every two years to report progress, achievements, constraints, and elect new corps of leadership.
Mrs. Wihelmina G. Mulbah-Siaway was re-elected unopposed as President for the second term for a period of two years while Galima Baysah as Vice President, and Frankline W. Philip was selected as Executive Director.
About 30 of the delegates were elected to the RPAL’s Executive Board and seven others including RPAL’s President were elected to represent the institution at the Rubber Development Fund.
The Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL), Inc. is a private not-for-profit entity established in 1966 by an Act of the Liberian Legislature. The Association is governed by a twenty-five member executive committee comprising of smallholders and medium to large farmers headed by the President.