The Standard Bearer of the Unity Party, Joseph Boakai, has said that agriculture alone has the potential to transform Liberia if it is prioritized.
He promised to use agriculture to transform the lives of the youth if given the chance to lead.
“Agriculture alone can take care of this country. It can provide many jobs for young people. When we take over as leaders of this country, we are going to make sure that our farmers are empowered to produce more,” he said.
The former Vice President, whose record in agriculture has been questioned by some in the political arena, believes that his experience in agriculture makes him the best candidate in the race to make agriculture a priority than any of the candidates.
Currently, agriculture is one of the main promises for some or many of the politicians running for the nation’s highest office. The standard bearer for the Collaborating Political Parties, Alexander Cummings, recently stated that he, too, would make agriculture a priority to stimulate the Liberian economy, if elected president.
Vice President Boakai, a former director of the defunct Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) and also a former Minister of Agriculture during the regime of the late President Samuel K. Doe, emphatically stated that there is no need for the country to continue to import nearly 80 percent of its food.
He said that if given the chance to lead the country, he will introduce policies that will reduce the level of food importation in the country to ensure that farmers can find attractive markets for their various farm produce.
“We will make sure to reduce the importation of poultry meat and vegetables. If the tomatoes are coming from outside, we will put a stop to it and empower our farmers to produce it to supply the market. I don’t see any reason why we should continue to import eggs into this country. Our Liberian farmers are able to produce the eggs we need to supply the market. All that we need to do is make sure that they are empowered to produce more,” he once said at a political rally held in Karplay, Nimba County.
Boikai is running on a manifesto using the acronym: “AREST”. This means priority for agriculture, roads, education, sanitation, and tourism to improve the economy.
He told the citizens of Nimba that Liberia is very rich, but unfortunately, it is being considered poor.
The former Vice President said that during the time he served as director of the LPMC, cooperatives in the country were producing more for the country.
“Those things are going to happen again. People have said that we don’t subsidize agriculture, but on the contrary, we do. When you send money to other countries, you subsidize agriculture. We have a rich country economically and traditionally, but all of our resources have been taken away because of food imports,” he mentioned.
He said that the potential of the country is so great for the possibility of mechanized farming.
“Our young people don’t need to go to other countries to look for a job. We can create more jobs here. We are just tired of seeing our resources go out of this country. When I was at LPMC, we had more rice produced in this country,” the former Vice president claimed.
Boakai said that his administration will make sure the country is attractive to investors when he becomes president.
“We will make sure to bring investors to this country to provide more jobs for the citizens,” he said.
Agriculture has been earmarked as a priority by the current and previous administrations to move the economy forward since the end of the civil war. Liberia has signed several agreements to revamp its agriculture to reduce poverty and improve food security. But it seems as though not much has been done to achieve productivity in the sector. Under President George M. Weah’s administration, the agriculture budget remains very low in the country’s national budget. Most of the funding for agriculture comes from external sources.
But Boakai said his administration is going to increase the budget for agriculture to assist many farmers and agribusinesses. He did not however mention how much his administration could increase for agriculture in the national budget. Under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration, in which he served as vice president, the budget for agriculture was 3 percent of the total national budget.