The Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA), in its quest to regularize the cocoa trade and improve cocoa quality, has welcomed an invitation from Solidaridad-West Africa, to train its technical staff for effective service delivery across the cocoa sector of the country.
It can be recalled that in pre-war Liberia, particularly in the 1980s, the cocoa sector had a peak export rate to the extent that in 1981 cocoa exported from Liberia was around 16, 728 metric tons, a figure more than what the country exported in 1961 (670 metric tons).
But current export figures have been on a free-fall since the 90s, an occurrence many Liberians have attributed to the civil war (1989-2003) that resulted in the abandonment of cocoa farms across the country.
The abandonment of cocoa farms across the country has also resulted in a reduction in yield per annum and cocoa quality. But marketing regulation and institutional framework are other aspects of development that actors in the cocoa sector have flagged over the past years.
But on Monday, September 9, 2019 the Government of Liberia, through LACRA and in its quest to regularize cocoa trade and improve cocoa quality, welcomed the invitation from Solidaridad-West Africa to begin a five-day training of 22 technical staff for effective service delivery across the cocoa sector as well as cocoa quality control in Monrovia.
The training will cover, among others, national and EU regulations on cocoa quality and control as well as assessing cocoa for quality, good warehousing and transportation practices.
Cocoa Program Manager at Solidaridad-Liberia Boima Bafaie said Solidaridad, through the EU-funded Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program (LICSIP), is supporting LACRA to plan policies and procedures that will improve the cocoa sector and ensure that standards of international market are adhered to.
He said that Solidaridad-Liberia has brought in two Ghanaian nationals to facilitate the training.
According to Bafaie, Kwasi Gorkeh-Sekyim, a retired managing director of Quality Control Company of Ghana (COCOBOD), and Emmanuel Oduro Owusu will also provide technical support to LACRA in order to develop the policy and regulatory framework of the cocoa sector in Liberia.
The Director-General of LACRA Dr. John Flomo, Jr., said that his institution is working to ensure that the integrity of Liberia’s agricultural produce will reflect the country’s integrity on the world market.
He said that LACRA did not come into existence as a marketing entity, but a regulatory entity that has set up a system for ensuring good cocoa quality. The system gives LACRA a space to trace cocoa quality from harvesting to storage stage.
Dr. Flomo said that his institution is setting up a regulatory system for development partners, to enable LACRA to gain a know-how about how development partners are helping in the cash crop sector.
He said that LACRA is developing a quality control lab as part of efforts to ensure that agricultural produce meet international standard.
Stephen Y. Mambu, Ministry of Commerce Director for National Standard Laboratory, said that the technical capacity of institutions is important in guaranteeing that export value of cocoa.
Mambu described Solidaridad-Liberia’s effort as a laudable venture to develop the capacity of LACRA’s technical staff.
In the same manner, a proxy for acting Agriculture Minister Randall Kolleh described as critical aspect cocoa quality control to attract foreign exchange, but said the training of technical staff is necessary if the agriculture sector would have a comparative advantage in Africa’s agricultural space.