Sime Darby refers to New York Times article "A Nobel Laureate's Problem At Home" published on 20 January 2012.
Reference is made to the New York Times article, "A Nobel Laureate’s Problem At Home" published on 20 January 2012. While the article is materially the expression of the writer’s opinion, it is based upon and thus perpetuates certain incorrect assumptions regarding Sime Darby Berhad’s operations in Liberia.
Sime Darby Plantation, the plantation division of Sime Darby Berhad, signed a 63-year concession agreement with the Government of Liberia for 220,000 hectares of land to be developed into oil palm and rubber plantations. A new company, Sime Darby Plantation (Liberia) Inc (SDPL), was established to manage the oil palm and rubber plantations in Liberia. The first estate was launched in May 2011.
Sime Darby Plantation is a world leader in sustainable agricultural practices and is the world’s largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil. More than 60% of the Group’s production has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Thus, as is the case with all the Group’s plantation operations, SDPL is required to adhere strictly to sustainability policies, procedures and protocols recognised by the RSPO.
This commitment to sustainable practices encompasses all aspects of operations and includes regular and direct engagement with communities, adherence to national laws and regulations, environmental stewardship and the use of best agricultural practices.Thus, the alleged transgressions attributed to SDPL are unfounded. The more serious allegations were:
A. Alleged loss of access to homes, farms, cemeteries and sacred sites
The truth: SDPL has not evicted any land owner nor relocated any resident and neither has the company desecrated cemeteries or sacred sites. Sime Darby Plantation respects the local laws of Liberia and the traditions and practices of the Liberian people. SDPL will proceed with development of any land only after Full, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) has been obtained from the local communities. This is in keeping with the company’s own internal policies, the FPIC guidelines under the New Planting Procedures (NPP) of the RSPO and Article 32 of UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People.
SDPL has actively engaged with local communities to inform them of the development plans and to seek their consent. Specially designed awareness programmes have been, and are still being carried out in the concession areas. Where appropriate, compensation is paid out to landowners whose land is being developed. Compensation plans are actively communicated to land owners during the many engagement sessions. Land owners are compensated for each palm, banana, kola and any other tree that is within their own land boundary, with as much as US$6.00 per plant. As of 30 September 2011, SDPL has paid US$1,348,978.94 as crop compensation to 2,132 farmers who have agreed to have their land developed, after negotiations were completed.
B. Impact of SDPL’s activities on the environment and water resources
The truth: SDPL has strict policies against the clearing of virgin forests. The Liberian concession area is mostly abandoned agricultural land neglected during the civil wars, and degraded forests. For example, some of SDPL’s current rubber estates still contain trees that were planted in the 1960’s. While these trees are still producing latex, their age limits productivity and thus minimises the economic potential of the land and the communities that depend on the land.
It is Sime Darby Plantation’s policy to conserve high conservation value forests (HCVF). This policy is applicable in all Sime Darby Plantation operations regardless of geography. Thus, Social & Environmental Impact Assessments (SEIA) are undertaken as a standard operating procedure before any development begins. Areas regarded as HCVF are identified and maintained.
The following include areas maintained as HCVF:
C. Alleged failure to pay workers’ promised salaries at Grand Cape Mount county
The truth: SDPL’s employees and workers are compensated based on the signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the worker's union, General Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Liberia (GAAWUL), and they are paid US$5.25 per day.
Sime Darby Plantation remains committed to the balanced development of the economy and the people of Liberia. In fact, once fully planted, Sime Darby Plantation’s estates in Liberia will create up to 35,000 jobs. This will help to address Liberia's current unemployment rate of 80%.
SDPL also ensures that local communities benefit from employment opportunities and the company assists in improving infrastructure, amenities and schools. This way, SDPL contributes to their wellbeing and that of their families, while ensuring that its plantations are developed responsibly and sustainably.
Currently, all SDPL’s estate managers are locals. They are trained and given the ample opportunities to learn best agricultural practices from the largest plantation company in the world. These managers are learning on the job and in turn pass on their knowledge to field workers.
SDPL reiterates that it operates by respecting not merely the local laws of Liberia and the Principles and Criteria of RSPO, but also the traditions and practices of the people of Liberia.
Sime Darby recognises the need for credible news organisations and free, fair and accurate reporting on issues. Thus, Sime Darby invites the New York Times to visit our operations in Liberia to judge for yourselves the real situation on the ground and the benefit that Sime Darby’s operations will bring to the Liberian people. While the article is materially the expression of the writer’s opinion, it is based upon and thus perpetuates certain incorrect assumptions regarding Sime Darby Berhad’s operations in Liberia.