President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has for the first time admitted that the government has abandoned the agriculture sector, leaving it with small farmers thus creating a high demand for the importation of rice.
President Sirleaf made the confession on Friday, April 9, when she inaugurated the first industrial rice processing and warehousing facility, in Kakata, Margibi County.
In her statement at the official inauguration of the facility, President Sirleaf said Fabrar’s initiative represents “a major step forward” which should have been done as a country.
She said the country has paid a lot of attention to its mineral resources, shipping logs and iron ore without paying much attention to the agriculture sector.
Madam Sirleaf described agriculture as “very expensive,” and because of this the country has left it with small subsistence farmers.
“Agriculture is very expensive; so we have left it to our small farmers. This is why we are the major importers of rice. It is possible for each of us to contribute something to our country by taking such initiative,” she said.
She challenged the Ministry of Agriculture to focus more attention on the ministry’s obligations by working tirelessly to ensure that the country is at the point of meeting the needs of its citizens by producing more food to alleviate hunger.
She expressed deep satisfaction over the newly inaugurated rice processing facility, adding that it is her greatest hope to have food processing facilities in all of the fifteen counties.
“I’m glad that Liberia has its first industrial rice processing and warehousing facility, which stands to benefit the citizens. I want to see more of rice, cassava and other industrial processing plants that will create job opportunities,” she added.
The President praised the company for its persistence and determination during the five years it took to develop the first rice processing industry in the country.
Success in reaching the point of installing the first industrial rice processing and warehouse facility came through the instrumentality of the United States Agency for International Development Food and Enterprise (USAID FED).
The Chief of Party of USAID FED, Ms. Agnes Luz, reaffirmed her organization’s commitment to supporting the country with financial and technical assistance in order to reduce hunger and promote food security for Liberians.
She stated that they will continually increase agricultural productivity and profitability of food crops and animals (rice, vegetables, cassava and goats), and stimulate the enterprises to build the agriculture workforce.
Ms. Luz acknowledged that support from the US Government to USAID FED also led to supporting the new industrial facility which will double its previous capacity to mill 30 metric tons (MT) of rice per day and store 1,000 metric tons with proper ventilation and protection from pests, fungus and mildew.
“Our program is in six counties — Lofa, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Bong and Montserrado, working with farmers to improve their living conditions,” the USAID FED Chief of Party stated.
US Ambassador Deborah Malac in her statement highlighted the importance of having such an industry, pledging her Government’s support to Liberia’s agriculture sector.
The U.S. Ambassador expressed disappointment that Liberia has fertile soil on which varieties of food crops can grow, but citizens continue to cry from hunger.
She called on Liberians to take responsibility by bringing in the changes the country needs to improve the living condition of the citizens by engaging in active farming.
Fabrar Liberia Inc., the agriculture entity which operates the facility, is a Liberian-owned and operated agriculture enterprise created in 2009 to tackle food insecurity in Liberia.
It also works to improve the livelihood of farmers and provides them access to domestic and international food markets.
Fabrar CEO, Mr. Fabio Lavelanet reiterated the goal of his industry which is to tackle food insecurity, improve lives of farmers and provides them access to domestic and international food markets.
He encouraged Liberian famers to join the effort by working together for the betterment of the country.
“As the country’s largest rice processor and only industrial processor for now, Fabrar Liberia Inc. will provide Liberian farmers incentives and motivate them to grow quality rice and make better businesses,” he added.
Liberia’s economy is oriented more in agriculture. The country has rich soil, a humid climate with equal lengths of rainfall and sunshine.
The rainfall then gives rise to dense forest vegetation, thus reflecting how rich and fertile Liberia’s soil is.
Despite Liberia’s fertile soil, agriculture has remained poorly handled with only the low income earners in rural areas making subsistence farming.
This has increased the importation of basic food commodities, including the staple food, rice. Another challenge associated with the agriculture sector is lack of farm to market roads which impede the progress of rural farmers as they find it difficult to bring their commodities to the market.
Amid all the constraints, however, local subsistence farmers continue to make strides in producing basic food crops but at a minimum scale. This effort by local farmers in the country has graded Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties as the bread baskets of Liberia.