5 February 2014

Liberia: 'Rubber Theft Major Dilemma' - Planters Express Concern

Monrovia — Rubber planters under the banner Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) have expressed serious concern over the wave of Rubber theft in the industry.

RPAL described rubber theft as an age-old problem in the sector that occurs at every level of the rubber processing, but is more prevalent at the production level.

At a news conference held in Monrovia on Monday, the Executive director of the Association, Mr. Simeon Woheelalleged that the problem of rubber theft has intensified since the introduction of Brokers and brokerage activities in the country.

"Theft in the industry was much more pronounced during the war because brokers were basically buying rubber from anybody willing to sell, whether they were farmers or not," he said.

"As a result, many rubber farms were destroyed by bad tapping and burning of rubber trees for charcoal production. This problem continues to this day."

The RPALexecutive director also claimed that as a result of brokers who are not farmers buying and selling rubber, the issue of rubber theft has increased at an alarming rate.

Woheel also claimed that rubber theft has resulted in the drastic reduction of income generation for farmers and a huge decline in production of rubber at large plantations over the last few years in the rubber sector.

Quoting Executive order 50, section 9, Woheel stated that: "as of the effective date of this executive order, all brokerage activities relating to the purchase, sale, all traces of unprocessed rubber in the republic of Liberia shall cease and agents shall be only persons to act as on behalf of or for a processor or to act as intermediaries between farmers and processors in transacting the unprocessed natural rubber trade".

The Association said, in contravention of Executive order 50, the National Broker and Farmer Union, a private business entity with profit motive, aided by the Police, continues to set up roadblocks and checkpoints along farm to market roads, and is extorting money from rubber farmer as well as assaulting those who resist paying their illegal rubber sale fees.

Woheel said, taking into consideration section 13 of the executive order 50they wrote the justice ministry informing them of the circumstances surrounding the National Rubber Brokers Union and a need to address the issue but nothing has been done up to present.

"Section 13 of the executive order 50 states that any person found to be acting in violation of this executive order shall be subject to legal action by the Ministry of Justice, in accordance with the law," he said.

The association told journalists that the Brokers Union went solo after the passage of the executive, but re-emerged after the change of Minister at the Justice and Agriculture Ministries, which led them to write a follow up complaint to the two new ministers informing them about executive order 50. He said unfortunately a letter from Deputy Justice Minister Fred Taylor was received informing them that the Brokers were legitimate.

"The Association took exception to the Deputy Justice Minister ruling and appeal to the minister proper at which time the minister expressed surprise over the ruling of her deputy without her informed about the circumstances and promised to address the situation.

Continue Woheel: since 2012, we have not been granted another audience at the Justice Ministry but the Brokers have started using persons in police uniform to check points and extort money from rubber farmers." he said. They expressed optimism that the Justice Ministry will rescind Mr. Fred Taylor letter's letter issued in favor of the Brokers Union.

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