Gbah/Kuala Lumpur — When Malaysia’s biggest plantation company, Sime Darby, leased 220,000ha of lush forest in northwest Liberia in 2009, executives said they had found a much-needed new frontier in global palm oil development. Undulating hills, a tropical climate and plenty of untouched land made the West African country’s interior ideal for palm oil growers running out of room in Southeast Asia. Nine years later, however, Sime Darby Plantation has planted only 10,000ha in Liberia and has not laid a seed in two years, stalled by uncertainties over new environmental standards. "We are losing money. We have to balance our books or there is no future," said David Parker, the head of Sime Darby Plantations in Liberia. In its earnings report for the financial year ending in June 2017, Sime Darby said it had filed a 202-million ringgit ($51.3m) impairment — a permanent reduction in the value of the asset — on its Liberia operations. The operations were "affected by a number of factors, i...

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