By Stephen G. Fellajuah
MONROVIA: Liberia’s Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper on Saturday, July 15, 2023 toured the Jeety Rubber Factory in Cinta Township, Weala, Margibi County, which is expected to commence operation soon, with the Minister expressing satisfaction over the multimillion dollar state-of-the-art investment owned by former Indian Honorary Consul General to Liberia, Mr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva, affectionately known as ‘Jetty’.
After touring the facility, Minister said one of the visions that the government of Liberia has under the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) under President George Manneh Weah’s vision is to see manufacturing processing plants being set up in the agriculture sector, adding that Mr. Jeety’s investment is one big example.
“I am very impressed, this is a state-of-the-art rubber factory and it has been a long time since I have seen one set up here in Liberia. We have several rubber processing plants but many of them are older and he is starting this one from scratch. I have visited a few others, but I am very proud of what Jeety has done in one year. I have not seen a factory of this size being established with state-of-the-art technology. I applaud him for that and I am very pleased that our Liberian farmers have this option – a place to sell”, she said.
Moreover, according to the Minister, she was impressed so much by the way the Indian businessman is also taking into consideration the environment and the way that he is going to be handling the waste and treating the water as well as the system he set up so that things can be recycled to further boost the capacity of the factory.
“Mr. Jeety told me he was going to fully establish this processing plant in 2024 but here we are in 2023, and most parts of the plant are already operational. He just told me that he is going to start operation on August 24, 2023,” she added.
Touching on constraints faced by farmers, she explained that recently, Firestone Company overbought rubber products they didn’t have any more space to store their rubber so others farmers couldn’t sell;, but the alternative which Jeety has established here will ease the rubber market.
Minister Cooper further disclosed that the Ministry of Agriculture is working with the National Rubber Brokers, the Farmers Union of Liberia, as well as the Rubber Planters Association and the Rubber Development Fund, to make sure that processing plants that are set up such as Jeety Rubber Factory can strive and provide outlets for Liberian farmers.
“Subsequently, the other thing Mr. Jeety promised me by next year is that he will start to manufacture rubber materials here in Liberia and that’s the dream that we need to have, because processing rubber and shipping it out for somebody else to make something and send it back to us to buy, that’s not the vision.
“The vision is that we will be manufacturing things. If you set up this by next year and you produce surgical gloves, you will be the first latex surgical glove factory on the continent of Africa,” Minister Cooper said as she praised the Indian business tycoon. She confirmed that the Jeety Rubber Factory is also expected to produce tyres, rain boots among others.
Stating her impression about the business climate in Liberia, she noted that, “The ease of doing business in Liberia is getting better, but it is still not very easy for foreigners to come and invest in Liberia. But the opportunities are so many. What is good and what I am seeing, is an actor who is familiar with the economy, like Mr. Jeety is doing well.”
The tour of the company’s facility was headed by Mr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva, who expressed excitement and thanked Minister Jeanine M. Cooper for the visit. He said he started construction of the factory about a year ago, and because of God’s blessings the Jeety Rubber Factory is nearing completion, and subsequently production.
He especially thanked employees at the facility, saying, “All that we have achieved is by your support. Your success is my success, and my success is your success. So, I just want to tell all of you my children, thank you.”
Rubber, which is one of Liberia’s traditional revenue sources, accounting for 12.5 percent of total export in 2020, is exported in its raw form without any value addition despite the county boosting nearly 600,000 acres of the crop planted across the country.
The lack of value addition means Liberia has for decades missed out on the lion’s share of revenue captured at the end of the value chain, in countries that have the capacity to add value to raw materials extracted from the country.
But the Jeety Rubbery Factory is expected to drastically change that sad story with its capacity of producing 20 metric tons of finished product goods when operational.