Vice President Boakai Welcomes Sime Darby Agreement

Saturday, 2nd May 2009
Monrovia, Liberia - Liberiaís Vice President Joseph N. Boakai has welcomed the USD$800 million investment by the Malaysia based Sime Darby Plantation Company, describing it as a vote of confidence in the Unity Party-led Government and boost to the nationís employment sector.

He said the companyís decision to invest in oil palm cultivation and processing would boost economic livelihood in oil palm production areas like Foya District and other parts of the country. The Vice President noted that oil palm planters in border areas currently rely on exports of the commodity to neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote DíIvoire to earn a livelihood.

Vice President Boakai made the remarks on May 1 when a three-member delegation from Sime Darby, accompanied by Acting Agriculture Minister Borkai Sirleaf and Deputy Agriculture Minister Lwopu Kandakai, as well a Bomi County Representative Haja Fata Siryon, paid  a courtesy call on him at his Capitol Building office.

The former Agriculture Minister said Sime Darbyís investment would lead to the rehabilitation of an estimate 50,000 acres of oil palm plantations across the country which have been virtually abandoned over the years due to the civil conflict.

The Liberian Vice President said even though the drop in the price of rubber is a blow to our economy, it is a blessing in disguise because youth who were engaged in rubber theft would be compelled to turn their attention to more positive activities.

In remarks, the head of the Malaysian delegation, Helmy Othman Besha, who is Vice President of Plantation Upstream of Malaysia, disclosed that they would invest USD$800 million over a 20-year period to rehabilitate the Guthrie Plantation Company and cultivate an estimated 220,000 hectares of rubber and oil palm in Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cap Mount and Bong counties.

Mr. Besha informed Vice President Boakai that officials of Sime Darby will return to the country at the end of May, while the formal handing over ceremony of Guthrie to the new management will take place in August.  Planting, he added, will commence in June and July 2010.

He, however, lamented that most rubber trees at the Guthrie Rubber Plantation are no longer economically viable and need to be replaced.