Liberia’s cassava sector is at the brink of losing a US$15 million contract with a China-based company as producers under the banner “National Cassava Producers Union of Liberia (NCPUL)” struggle to meet up with shipping requirements.
The China-based company, Welcome Development Industry Limited, signed a contract with NCPUL that could see 500 metric tons of cassava-chips exported to China monthly. The chips are expected to be processed into cassava-flour, cassava glue and animal feed.
Emmanuel Tambah, president of NCPUL, has expressed uncertainty about the union’s ability to meet up with the agreement, citing financial constraints.
In an interview with the Daily Observer, Tambah said the union needs an additional US$250,000 to purchase sophisticated machines that will accelerate the production process of the cassava-chips. Currently, members of the union are processing their cassava with manual equipment.
“We need funds to purchase fresh cassava from over 75,000 registered smallholder farmers and process them into chips before shipping to China,” said Tambah. “Unfortunately this is really not happening because we need additional US$250,000 to do this work.”
The contract also requires that the Liberian government sign a ‘Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements’ for the export of cassava to China, a requirement which Tambah said could worsen the process if the Government of Liberia lingers.
A Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements is a derivative of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which is an international treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO) aimed at the protection of human, animal or plant life or health from certain risks. Under the protocol, WTO sets constraints on member-states’ policies relating to food safety (bacterial contaminants, pesticides, inspection, packaging and labelling) as well as animal and plant health (phytosanitation) with respect to imported pests and diseases.
In the case of the NCPUL, the Government of Liberia, as a WTO member state, through the Ministry of Agriculture, would need to sign a Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements with the relevant authority in the People’s Republic of China for the two private sector counterparts to carry on their business cooperation.