By: H. Richard Fallah
MONROVIA: Liberia`s former Defense Minister, Daniel Chea, has lavished praises on the George Weah led government for what he described as its “immense contributions” to the rubber sector in Liberia.
Speaking to a team of local rubber farmers on Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Monrovia, former Minister Chea noted that the efforts by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government to empower rubber farmers across the country will enable the sector to grow speedily.
He revealed that the Weah-led administration is about to do something in the rubber industry that should have been done since fifty (50) to sixty (60) years ago.
Chea informed the public that a whopping US$11.5million is about to be given to the rubber sector of Liberia by the current government for what he described as “Value Addition.” He did not, however, say when specifically the funds would be delivered by the government.
But Mr. Chea stressed that value addition will raise the employment power of the country’s rubber industry, and the profiles of local Liberian famers.
Daniel Chea: “I can assure you that if this amount is used for the intended purpose, you can see a vibrant middle class developing in a not-too-distant future.”
“Everybody will talk, but let’s call a spade, a spade, this government is doing something in the rubber sector that no government in Liberia has done before,” Mr. Chea said.
He said the over Eleven Million United States dollars (US$11.5million) will help improves the fabric setting of the industry.
For example, he narrated, it will build the capacity of the Nimba rubber, and the Monrovia farm that is based in Kakata, Margibi County.
Chea noted that they are in discussion to put in for a rubber processing plant for Bong, Nimba and Rivercess Counties to enable local rubber farmers process their rubbers.
“In Liberia, we have the tendency of playing politics with everything; For me, I speak to the moment, if someone does well, we must acknowledge it,” he asserted.
Daniel Chea is a former Defense Minister in the erstwhile government of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor.
He is now believed to be a key supporter of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) of Businessman turned politician, Alexander Benedict Cummings.
In the 2017 Presidential run-off election, the former Minister pledged his “fullest support” to the presidential bid of former Vice President Joseph Boakai, now political leader of the UP for the 2023 elections. Chea now has one of biggest rubber farms in Grand Bassa County.
For his part, Liberia
s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah Jr., who is also top executive of the ruling CDC, asserted that President Weah is “teaching the countrypractical governance,” a government that does not drag to do simple things.
Minister Tweah said the entire country is engulfed with works, naming Nimba, Lofa and other counties in which the CDC led government is making significant impacts.
Tweah said since President Weah took over the Presidency, he has always helped and still helping the rubber sector in Liberia.
The tough-talking Finance and Development Planning Minister said, when the CDC led government came to power, the rubber industry was indebted to several of the banks in the country.
He told the gathering that with the help of the government, after a plea from the rubber farmers, the President instructed that the debts owed be paid.
According to Minister Tweah, the debt was about sixty-five million (US$65m), but with the government`s intervention by paying some amounts to the various banks, the amount has dropped to about US$35Million.
Minister Tweah did not name the various banks that received payments and how much each bank received from the government.
However, he informed the local farmers that President Weah is negotiating for additional financing support to the sector which is in the amount ofUS$30.5millioin.
In 2019, the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) lauded efforts by the government appropriation of US$1.7million loan to local farmers.
According to the government, the loan was in fulfillment of President Weah’s plan to revamp the agriculture sector, especially the rubber industry and curtail the enormous challenges faced by local farmers.
Rubber is one of Liberia’s traditional revenue sources, accounting for 12.5 percent of total export and grew by 33.8 percent to US$109.9 million, from US$82.6 million recorded in 2020, according to the Central Bank of Liberia Annual report in 2021.
The CBL data shows that rubber production rose by 37.7 percent to 87,777 metric tons from 63,734 metric tons reported in 2020 on account of an increase in the harvest of smallholder farms.
Nevertheless, the export of the commodity has only provided temporary prestige, since the lion’s share of revenue is captured at the end of the value chain, in other countries that have the capacity to add value to raw materials extracted from Liberia.
In 2022, a US$20 million investment was signed into law by President Weah to address the issue of lack of value addition in the rubber sector to boost exports of high-value products.
It also turned over a new page from a nearly 100-year chapter during which Liberia helped global superpowers win world wars with its natural rubber.