Agriculture Minister Jeanine Cooper has realistically appealed to the Ways, Means & Budget Committee of the House of Representatives to increase the “sector allocation” from US$5.5 million, representing 0.05% to at least US$17 million, equivalent to 2% of the 2022 Budget.
Minister Cooper’s appeal of merely 2% on public spending in the 2022 Budget is far below the prescribed budgetary allotment in the Maputo and Malabo Declarations of the African Union, of which all nations are expected to allocate 10% of total public budgets to the agriculture sector to enhance food production and wealth creation, as well as reduce escalating malnutrition in Africa.
The Declarations warned governments and policy makers in the sector against paying lip service to calls for diversification of the economy.
On December 9, during the Expenditure Public Hearing in the House’s Joint Chamber of the Capitol, Minister Cooper said the increment in the ‘agri allocation’ will determine the developments in the agricultural sector, a driving force of the economy, to include achieving self-sufficiency in food production and increase the country’s ability to earn and conserve foreign exchange.
She said the budgetary increase will generate better incomes for farmers, bring them out of subsistence farming and to encourage and introduce commercial farming through farm mechanisms.
Filling 489 Vacancies
Minister Cooper also noted that, up to date, there are 489 vacancies at the Ministry of Agriculture, and there is a need for the vacancies to be filled for the development of the sector at headquarters, counties and the districts respectively. She said US$3.3 million is needed for this, to enable the Ministry to employ 489 persons.
The Agriculture Minister also revealed that the country is indebted and needs to regularize her status with international organizations.
She also mentioned that because of Liberia's failure to meet international obligations, the country has been suspended from some international agricultural groupings.
Some of the international bodies Liberia owes include Coffee, Cocoa Organizations.
Meanwhile, the House’s Ways, Means and Budget Committee has appointed a subcommittee comprising Reps. Ben Fofana, Francis Dopoh, Julie Wiah, Joseph Matthew and Dixon Seeboe, to work with the Ministry of Agriculture on the proposed increment.