Several multibillion dollar agreements have been signed since 2006 by Monrovia with companies in Malaysia and the US
Liberia is on the coast of West Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world, very reliant on both direct foreign investment and aid. Over 50% of its population is currently unable to fulfil their own basic needs, with food poverty and unemployment being major problems, particularly in rural areas. Its key exports are timber, iron ore and rubber, however Palm oil production is seeing significant grow, in fact several multibillion dollar agreements have been signed since 2006 with companies in Malaysia and the US.
Palm Oil production
Palm Oil is largely produced in South East Asia and Africa, in fact approximately 85% of all the palm oil in the world is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is used in a hugely diverse number of ways, including in edible products and cosmetics. It is largely grown by small scale subsistence farmers as a low yield crop and whilst Africa is currently still a net importer of palm oil its potential is now being seen by a number of governments across Africa, in fact many believe it can in the future be a major source of tax and export revenue by becoming a significant sustainable long term industry. The Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) is working to ensure the industry’s success in a number of African countries.
Aspirations of the Liberian government
Following the recent collapse of metal prices, particularly iron ore, Liberia’s economy has stopped growing and the Liberian government believes that the increasing demand for palm oil will help them out of their current economic slump. They are in fact forecasting that in coming years’ palm oil will become one of their major export commodities, along with rubber, overtaking iron ore.
Ellen Pratt, the country’s deputy minister of industry believes that it will not only become a major export for Liberia but will also employ in excess of 100,000 people in coming years. During a recent interview, Ellen Pratt said, “Liberia’s climate is one of the best for production of oil palm and similar to the climatic conditions of Southeast Asia,” adding “If only 25% of concessionary land is planted, oil palm exports can equal iron ore exports.”.
Sime Darby Bhd, a company based in Malaysia is one of the most powerful producers of palm oil in the world and has recently been granted permission by the Liberian government to plant over 870,000 hectares of palm trees which will create more than 70,000 jobs.
Pictures : aljazeera.com and tfa2020.org