One of Lofa County’s leading buyers of farm produce, particularly rice, Mr. John Selma, has warned that over 10,000 farmers may decide to engage in other activities if the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) does not develop a system to buy the tons of rice they produced in the county.
In an interview with the Daily Observer last Monday at Kpadeh Village, a rice producing town in Voinjama, Mr. Selma said buying huge quantities of rice from farmers last year encouraged them to increase production in commercial farming activities across the county.
As we speak, farmers in Lofa County are making serious progress in helping to make Liberia food secure and the government must attach urgency to support these farmers in Lofa County and the country at large.
“Over one million tons of rice will be produced, followed by other commodities this harvest season and therefore unless farmers get people to buy what they grow, they will not be happy to continue to grow rice,” he said.
“We didn’t complete the purchasing of rice for last year but farmers still have remained encouraged to increase the production of rice this year. I have been faced with the challenge on how to negotiate with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that there are buyers for the rice. I cannot motivate the farmers to increase farming activities and remain mute without finding buyers,” he maintained.
Mr. Selma said Lofa County farmers have been very sad and did not celebrate the festive season due to the lack of buyers for their rice.
The Liberian government must increase the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MOA) budget that would see the MOA encourage farmers through the buying of their annual harvests, said Selma.
“Many farmers are worried on how to pay their children’s school fees because the buyers are yet to visit the various centers or farms. We were encouraged by MOA and other partners in previous years to buy from farmers then they will come to buy from us,” Mr. Selma explained.
He said the county is also engaged in the production of huge quantities of cassava, despite the low local consumption rate in Lofa County, which calls for a market system that will allow other counties to utilize their surplus.
Mr. Selma said there is currently a plan by the farmers, particularly those in the production of cassava, to negotiate with the government and other partners for the provision of processing machines that will increase their production.
“This county produces pepper, eddo, cassava, potato and rice in huge quantities. The government needs to provide more support if farmers are to continue to make Liberia food secure. They need to have access to equipment and finances because they have to handle other issues,” he contended.
K. Boakai S. Hiamah Jr, another buyer of rice in Lofa County, hailed farmers of Lofa County for making farming a priority but expressed hope that the government will continue the buying of rice as a way of encouraging them.
Mr. Hiamah has been engaged in farming for more then three years, which he said has tremendously changed his living conditions for the better.
“We are left in a complete dilemma and we are confused. Because of the purchasing of rice last year, some of farmers doubled and others tripled their previous farms with the anticipation that they will get involved into construction,” Mr. Hiamah said.
According to him, buyers will only buy if the government through the MOA can signal to all of its buyers to buy from the farmers.
A group of farmers who spoke with the Daily Observer over the weekend in David Selma Town, Lofa County said they have been using farming to improve their living conditions and bring development to the county.