Former Nimba County Superintendent, Robert Kamei, says Liberia will in a few years be forced to import all of its food needs to keep its citizens and residents fed—if government does not increase support to agriculture.
Speaking to the Daily Observer on his farm in Nimba on New Year’s Day, Mr. Kamei, an agriculturist, said that farmers are producing a small quantity of rice at a very high cost without subsidy from government.
At the same time, government is subsidizing imported rice which is drawing many to join in the importation of the product, rather than its growth, he said.
He noted that because government is more attentive to the importation of rice and not domestically produced rice in the agriculture sector, it is highly probable that 100% of food needed for Liberians to eat will be imported.
Liberia’s staple food is rice, but much of the rice needed to feed the citizens is imported from China, India, Thailand, and sometimes the United States.
Rice importers also complain of high cost of custom duties, and have petitioned government to introduced duty free import, but it is yet to work. This has contributed to the increase in the price of rice depending on the grade.
For instance, American parboiled rice and others, said to be of high grade from exporting countries, are sold for US$40 or $50 depending on the location. Low-grade 100lbs of 25kg is sold for under US$20.
Liberians, for a protracted period, have engaged in subsistence farming that allows a farmer to produce a small quantity to for himself for a few months.
The former Nimba Superintendent said that producing rice has become expensive; so farmers are now shifting from growing food to producing rubber—a cash crop that brings income at any time.
He said that equipment such as tractors and other machines could change the shift, dropping the cost of food dramatically.
“During an Agriculture Fair in Nimba, in 2006, we told the President we do not want ‘gifts.’ We opted for tractors and land-clearing machinery. We are yet to get any result from this request.
Preferring rubber to food has caused land-conflicts since some cash-croppers plant at random, with little regard to the rights of others to a farmland.
This, coupled with other land issues, has put the Land Commission on its feet, sensitizing citizens to Land Rights Laws of Liberia amid violence that over the years has been reported in Nimba, especially.
Mr. Kamei lauded the Ministry of Internal Affairs for identifying districts in the counties to carry on Agriculture experiments which according to him is taking place in the Kparblee District of Nimba, his native county.
Also commenting on animal farming, Mr. Kamei intoned that almost every Liberian eats beef; however, less than ten Liberian farmers engaged in cattle production with the rest coming from neighboring countries. He said this signals a bad omen for food-security in the country.