The President of the Farmers Union Network of Liberia (FUN-L), Josephine George Francis, has said that a collective planning involving all stakeholders is essential if the country’s agri-sector will survive the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis.
“This is a serious food security emergency and we need to come to the table so that when all of this is over, we will hit the ground running,” she said.
“We need to bring together all the actors and hang heads with the Minister of Agriculture to give recommendations to our government during this time of crisis,” Madam Francis said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer.
Despite the Coronavirus pandemic being a health crisis, local agricultural experts have alarmed that the virus might drastically impact the availability and affordability of food in Liberia.
Nonetheless, Madam Francis has said that agricultural research could help reduce the threats of the virus to the country’s food sector now and after.
The former Representative of Montserrado County District #1 has urged that agri-research works should begin with rice, which is the nation’s staple food.
“I don’t see us having enough rice because most of our imports come from Asia as we do not grow our staple food. Are we not worried about that? What would become of us in the next 90 days and even more?
“We are going to the farming season for lowland-rice, why not start to secure seeds within our jurisdiction?
“There are still experts who will know what type of seeds are available from the different farmers’ organizations. And the Farmers Union can do that because we have given clean-seeds over the last couple of years that farmers are still growing,” she stated.
Rice consumption in Liberia has grown by 14.1% per year on average since the end of the war. The country consumes 570,000 metric tons of rice every year with import accounting for 60% (342,000 metric tons of rice), according to the National Investment Commission (NEC).
On March 22, the Government of Liberia declared with immediate effect a national health emergency with several safety measures put into place as an effort to limit the spread of the Coronavirus to other regions.
Non-essential businesses, schools, and all religious centers have been ordered closed in Montserrado and Margibi counties, the two designated infected zones in the country.
Also, the Liberian government went further to ban gatherings of more than 10 people and has instructed people to stay “six feet” apart from each other, and stay home if necessary.
But experts believe that the Coronavirus pandemic might hinder small-scale farmers from working their land, caring for their livestock, or fishing.
Farmers could also face challenges accessing markets to sell their produce or buy essential agro-inputs, or struggle due to high food prices and limited purchasing power, FAO predicts.