Over 4000 oil palm seedlings (young plants) are currently on nursery in Bellemu, Panta District, Bong County, to be distributed to local farmers for cultivation.
The business manager of the Panta Multi-purpose Cooperative Society (PANFAMCOS), Isaac B. Yarkparwolo, made the disclosure to the Daily Observer Farmer Desk on Tuesday, January 21, at his office in Bellemu Town in an exclusive interview.
Mr. Yarkparwolo stated that the oil palm seedlings are intended to empower local farmers, who have developed interest in growing oil palm in Panta District and its environs.
Oil palm (Elaesis Geineensis) is a native crop of Equatorial Guinea. When planted, it gets matured within three to seven years depending on the varieties.
It can be planted early April to May.
Mr. Yarkparwolo said that more than 187 farmers from nine communities in Panta district are expected to benefit from the seedling distribution.
“Beginning April to June of this year, farmers should have gotten hold of their supplies of oil palm seedlings,” he disclosed.
According to him farmers will be obligated to pay back the value of the seedlings in cash at a minimum rate, which he could not say.
He stated that his cooperative has received supports from an international NGO, Winkrock to enhance oil palm production in his district.
He disclosed that the initiative to grow oil palm started immediately after the civil crisis.
“Having realized the need for self employment, we taught of organizing farmers in the district in 1997 to prioritize the production of the crop to earn income. Today many of the farmers have begun to harvest and process palm nuts for market.
He mentioned that this process has helped to reduce poverty in the lives of many farmers.
“Many farmers including myself, have owned properties just from growing oil palm,” he declared.
On the constraints face by farmers, Mr. Yarparwolo told the Observer that they have serious challenges with marketing the oil that is processed. “We are no longer exporting oil out of the country, so our revenue base has dropped,” he stated. He added that all the oil they process from the palm is consumed right in Liberia.
“There is a need that the government thinks seriously about creating market for our produce to encourage more farmers in the business.
Moreover, he added that getting improved seeds to nurse is another major challenge.
“The Central Agriculture Research Institute(CARI) must now began to provide seeds for farmers in the country,” he noted.
He disclosed that due to lack of improved oil palm seeds in the country, farmers buy seeds from La Côte d’Ivoire at exorbitant cost.
Meanwhile, the PANFAMCOS business manager also disclosed that his cooperative is also involved into rubber crop farming as well as food crop.
But he strongly noted that the monopoly in the rubber business poses a serious a problem for rubber farmers in the country.
“Our persistent calls to the government are that the moratorium on the exportation of unprocessed natural rubber should be lifted to allow farmers to make more money and improve their lives. Firestone Rubber Plantation cannot be the only buyer of rubber from farmers. There must be other companies to compete with Firestone to have attractive prices for the purchase of the product,” he stressed.
He went as far as criticizing the government for not ensuring that rubber produce in the country by Firestone other companies is processed to create more jobs for the citizens.
“We cannot understand why Liberia being the largest producer of rubber in the world is yet to add value to the product,” he said.