President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has challenged the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to do more to empower Liberians into bigger ventures and businesses that would lead to export rather than just small scale businesses.
The IFC is an international financial institution that offers investment, advisory, and asset management services to encourage private sector development in developing countries. The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group.
“We want to see real serious industrial processing plants here that would produce things like fruit juice; we need to start an export of things other than iron ore and timber so that we can have finished products and can export like many of our African countries that have moved far beyond us in this regard,” she emphasized.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian President made the statement when she inaugurated the Fabrar Liberia Incorporated processing facility in Kakata, Margibi County recently.
Fabrar is a Liberian-owned enterprise agribusiness focused on processing, packaging and marketing locally-produced food. The business, founded in 2009, is expected to tackle food insecurity in Liberia by improving the livelihoods of farmers and providing them with increased access to domestic and international food markets.
As the country’s only industrial and largest rice processor, Fabrar Liberia Inc. will provide Liberian farmers with an incentive and motivation to grow quality rice as a business and not just for subsistence.
President Sirleaf said Government recognizes the new venture as a major step forward in what the country needs, especially when the country’s natural resources and the extractive industry are being depleted rapidly.
The Liberian leader stressed that agriculture is the enterprise of the future and a way to future growth and development of the country; noting that if all Liberians do their part in this regard, Liberia will have a future.
She said governments have not paid much attention to agriculture, although the country is an agricultural nation with vast potential; but admitted that agriculture is an expensive undertaking which has been left to small farmers who lack the capital and technical knowledge to be able to undertake big ventures where surplus is possible for commercialization. “That’s why we are a major importer of rice and most of our agriculture products,” she pointed out.
President Sirleaf thanked Fabrar for staying the course though it has taken them five years to reach thus far. “I want to commend you. I want to applaud you and your team. Your perseverance, innovation and determination is the only thing that could have brought you to where you are today. You didn’t give up.”
Also speaking during the program, the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac said the US Government is extremely pleased to be part of this process and expressed her country’s commitment to working with Liberians to improve the agriculture sector. “There is no reason this beautiful country and this extremely fertile country is not able to feed itself,” she said.
Ambassador Malac said anything that her government and U.S. agencies and institutions can do to support those efforts is something they are proud to be part of.
On the issue of processing and value chains, the US Ambassador to Liberia said this is the way that Liberia will not only achieve food security but also the way to build the private sector that’s critically needed to be the engine of growth.
In 2014, with financial and technical support from the U.S. Government through the USAID Food and Enterprise Development (USAID FED) program and private equity financing from West Africa Venture Fund, Fabrar was able to procure an automated rice processing plant and expand its warehouse facilities. The newly industrialized facility, now with double its previous capacity, can mill 30 metric tons of rice each day and store 1,000 metric tons with proper ventilation and protection from pests, mold, fungus and mildew.
In addition to Fabrar Liberia, USAID FED has set up a series of 10 Rice Business Hubs in Lofa, Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa counties. These small processors are located in high-density business cluster areas, and each center has enough space to thresh, clean and mill rice. These hubs will also provide Fabrar with a secure and reliable place to pick up paddy rice from farmers.
For his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Fabrar Liberia Inc., Fabio Lavelanet, thanked the Liberian Government, USAID, West African Venture Fund and International Finance Corporation among other partners for their support towards the realization of his company’s dream.
Meanwhile, the Liberian President has also dedicated the country’s first modern bakery, Hope Bakery Liberia Incorporated on the A.B. Tolbert Road in Paynesville. The facility is valued at over US$300,000 solely owned by Liberians with support from the West African Venture Fund.