Liberia: CARI’s Director General Calls for More Investment in Cassava Value Chain



The Director General of the Central Agriculture Research Institution (CARI), Dr. Victor Sumo, says there is a need for more investment in the cassava value chain.

Sumo, who is also the Acting Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Cassava Sector Coordinating Committee (NCSCC), underscored the need for the government to accelerate investment for the cassava value chain to end hunger and create more jobs for the citizens.

According to him, Liberia has a very great potential for the production of cassava but it will require more funding to the sector to realize that potential.

“We must first begin to think about ways to produce the volume of cassava we need. We want to open the market for food products — that means for production and processing as well as for industrial purposes to provide more jobs. This is already happening in other African countries,” Sumo explained.

The CARI Director spoke over the weekend in Monrovia during the first board meeting of the NCSCC, which was convened to discuss achievements and challenges, among other things relating to the sector.

The NCSCC is the umbrella organization of cassava farmers, processors, traders, transporters and other value chains. It was established in 2010 with the objective to coordinate the activities of the cassava sector.

Commenting on the 10 percent Cassava Composite Flour Policy, the CARI Director said that the policy is welcoming but will require that farmers be able to produce large quantities of cassava that will be needed.

“The idea of the ten percent cassava composite flour bill is a good concern but this also challenges us to produce more. While we will be lobbying for this policy, the lawmakers will be asking us if we have the volume to supply the quantity of cassava,” he said. 

The 10 percent Cassava Composite Flour policy requires baked products using flour to incorporate at least 10 percent cassava flour into the wheat flour. Currently, up to 25 percent cassava content does not have a significant impact on the taste of bread. The policy is attractive to bakers, as it could mean cost-savings of approximately US$4.6 million due to the lower cost of cassava flour.

It also means reduction in the importation bill of approximately US$8.6 million. More importantly, it could mean an additional market for approximately 43,000 metric tons of cassava tubers, experts have said. 

Dr. Sumo said to support the implementation of the policy once passed, there is a need  to identify and support investment in a large scale cassava flour/starch processing plant.

He stressed the need for the sector to set up the governance structure to work as a team and begin lobbying toward the passing of the policy.

“This team will be responsible to ensure the mobilization of resources to get the volume of cassava to provide to the processing facilities. This will be our challenge as no investment will want to fund the value chain without being encouraged by the quantity of cassava that we produce as a country,” he further explained.

“There will be the need to produce cassava throughout the year because without consistency we cannot encourage the investors. Investors are encouraged by the volume of cassava being produced. This should be a wake-up call for players of the value chain," he added.

Dr. Sumo further stated that the governance structure should also be strengthened at the county level. 

“We need to mobilize the resources so that we can have logistics for those of our monitors at the level of the counties. I want you to think about manufacturing which an investor is interested in. When we are buying more cassava from neighboring countries it means that no investor will want to come to invest, especially if there is inconsistency for the production of the crop,” he explained. 

Also speaking at the meeting was the National Coordinator of the Cassava Sector, Joseph Morris who outlined a number of achievements being made in the sector.

He said over the periods, the sector has been able to establish coordinators at the various counties and districts to work with extension workers of the Ministry of Agriculture to reach cassava farmers with needed services.

Morris added that his administration is working with the Ministry collaboratively to promote data collection.

However, Morris said the collection of data remains a challenge for his organization to some extent.

Morris said he was grateful to the Ministry of Agriculture through its Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP) for the level of support provided to the cassava sector.  

Meanwhile, the Cassava Sector Coordinating Committee has restructured its Board of Directors for the effective management of the sector. 

Those named to serve on the board include, CARI Director,  Dr. Victor Sumo, Acting Chairman, Agriculture Minister Jeanine Cooper, Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah, Education Minister Ansu Soni and Internal Affairs Minister, Varney Sirleaf. Others include, Commerce Minister Mawine Diggs, Dr. Arnold Hill, Nelleh Diatouah, Bishop Jerry C.M Yarpa, Elizabeth Sambullah, Rev. Robert Bimba and H. Augustus Roberts.