BFS Renegotiating Plantation Agreement in Liberia
The Liberian government is currently in discussions with Bridgestone Firestone to renegotiate the concession contract for the tyremaker’s operation of the world’s largest natural rubber plantation.
Negotiations between BFS and Liberian officials began in mid-February, said Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, while visiting the US capital to hold discussions with U.S. officials, executives of the World Bank and representatives from the private sector regarding means by which new capital can flow into her war-ravaged country.
Johnson-Sirleaf did not elaborate on her negotiations with BFS, and although the tyremaker has not disclosed the specific issues to be covered in these latest negotiations, it did issue a statement about the renewal agreement it signed with Liberia in 2005, before Johnson-Sirleaf took office.
“By signing the agreement with the government in 2005, Firestone committed to invest $100 million of capital, in addition to wages and outside rubber purchases, in the rebuilding of Liberia,” the BFS statement reported. “Today, Firestone is on time or ahead of schedule with regard to all its investment targets and is meeting its other commitments under the agreement.”
The company added that, amongst other things, BFS operates and funds 21 schools on the 240-square-mile plantation, serving some 13,000 children, as well as a medical system that receives up to 9,000 patient visits a month.
BFS first negotiated a concession agreement with the Liberian government in 1926. In May 2006 the United Nations Mission in Liberia released a report that indicates the existence of human rights violations on the plantation. The International Labor Rights Fund has also laid allegations of near-slave labor conditions for BFS´s 6,000 Liberian workers. The company denies the validity of both organisation’s statements.