Editorial: The Fouani Investment Incentive: The Senate Protects Local Farmers, Agriculture Concessions And The Economy
𝐁𝐎𝐌𝐈 𝐂𝐎𝐔𝐍𝐓𝐘 𝐒𝐄𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐎𝐑, Edwin Melvin Snowe, has described the Fouani Brothers Corporation Investment Incentive Agreement as a bad deal, and urged the Executive branch of government to withdraw the agreement to save the agriculture sector and the Liberian economy.
“𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐄𝐗𝐄𝐂𝐔𝐓𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐒𝐇𝐎𝐔𝐋𝐃 withdraw this agreement because it is bad for our economy, bad for local farmers and all companies who have invested millions of dollars in the palm oil sector, like Golden Veroleum, Mano Palm,” Senator Snowe stated.
𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐒𝐄𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐄 𝐂𝐎𝐌𝐌𝐈𝐓𝐓𝐄𝐄𝐒 on Concessions and Judiciary have begun hearing the Fouani Brothers Corporation Investment Incentive Agreement, with the objective of understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement and properly advising the Senate plenary on its course of action.
𝐎𝐍 𝐌𝐎𝐍𝐃𝐀𝐘, 𝐎𝐂𝐓𝐎𝐁𝐄𝐑 30, 2023, on behalf of the Executive branch, the Deputy Minister of Finance for Fiscal Affairs, Samora P.Z. Wolokollie, and the Chairman of the National Investment Commission, Molewuleh B. Gray, appeared in committee room to explain to the Senators the sections of the bill and provide clarity where necessary.
𝐀𝐂𝐂𝐎𝐑𝐃𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐓𝐎 𝐍𝐈𝐂 Commissioner Gray, the investment is valued at US$30 million, with a duration of fifteen years. according to him, the agreement is for Fouani Brothers Corporation to build a crude palm oil (CPO) refinery in Liberia, which in turn will provide 150 direct jobs and several indirect jobs. Since the venture is agriculture-related, the corporation will provide for the Ministry of Agriculture US$75,000 annually to facilitate trainings and other related activities.
𝐇𝐎𝐖𝐄𝐕𝐄𝐑, 𝐀𝐅𝐓𝐄𝐑 𝐓𝐇𝐄 deliberation of the guests, the senators raised several concerns about clauses in the agreement, ranging from the amount to be given the Ministry of Agriculture, the marginalization of local farmers, the tax-free luxury for the investor, the environmental social impact assessment, the loophole in Section 11.1 of the investment agreement, etc.
𝐒𝐏𝐄𝐂𝐈𝐅𝐈𝐂𝐀𝐋𝐋𝐘, 𝐒𝐄𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐎𝐑 𝐀𝐁𝐑𝐀𝐇𝐀𝐌 Darious Dillion of Montserrado County argued that the loophole created in Section 11.1 could put Liberian farmers out of job. Senator Dillon emphasized that if the company is given the leverage to import oil they may not buy from the local farmers but use the loophole in the law to import oil, which could be cheaper, and put Liberian farmers out of business. He warned that the Senate needs to thoroughly look into that clause and do the needful.
𝐒𝐄𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐎𝐑 𝐄𝐌𝐌𝐀𝐍𝐔𝐄𝐋 𝐍𝐔𝐐𝐔𝐀𝐘 of Margibi County argued that passing the investment incentive could mean putting Fouani Brothers Corporation in direct competition with Liberian farmers. He said he is of the belief that the importation of crude palm oil will be cheaper than buying from local farmers; as such, the investor may choose to maximize profit. He also expressed concern about the pricing of the palm oil, wondering whether the government will be involved in making price for locally produced oil.