With funding from the European Union, through Solidaridad West Africa, the Liberia Agriculture Commodities Regulatory Authority (LACRA) has dedicated a refurbished certified cocoa beans warehouse at the Free Port of Monrovia to export Liberian cocoa to the world market.
Under the ongoing Cocoa Development Program, the facility was dedicated on November 15, at an event attended by the head of Delegation of the European Union of Liberia, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the private sector members of the cocoa sector.
The Director General of LACRA, Dr. John S. Flomo thanked the EU for the numerous support to the cocoa sector.
“I want to thank the EU for the many support throughout our strides. Many of the equipment and other facilities including air-conditions and other office materials as well as the certified warehouse here were supported by the EU. We are highly grateful for the many initiatives,” Director Flomo said.
According to him, LACRA as one the government’s newest functionaries has remained underfunded since its establishment.
LACRA replaced the Liberia Produce Marketing Authority (LPMC) that was responsible for the commerce of Liberian agricultural commodities. But as a new entity, its function is only limited to regulation as by an act of the legislation during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2016.
Flomo said since taking over as the first administrator, it had been a very challenging time because his institution is lacking adequate funding to undertake many of the works.
“We took over the leadership of this entity when everything was completely down. There were very limited office materials and facilities and support to smallholder farmers in the cocoa sector was absolutely lacking, thanks to the generous support of our partners,” Flomo explained.
Liberia, once an exporter of cocoa and coffee to the World Market, export potential has declined as a result of the 14-year civil war. The cocoa sector is yet to regain its position as a contributor to the country’s revenue envelope.
Flomo said since the establishment of LACRA, though there are challenges, achievements have been made. He said with the help of the EU, Liberia now has a renovated certified cocoa warehouse to export the product.
“When we took over, we inherited warehouses in a deplorable condition. Now today, with the help of our partner, we have this warehouse that we are dedicating today. The reason this warehouse is important is that, as we look at the warehouses of our exporters, they do not meet the standard required as there are a lot of challenges with quality control and the environment,” he said.
He added that they have been able to renovate cocoa warehouses in the producing counties as well as to support smallholder farmers in the sector with support from development partners.
Meanwhile, he stated that with the issue of EU regulations on cocoa, his entity is therefore stepping up with the issue of standards.
However, Director Flomo said his institution will need more support as related to the issue of ensuring compliance in the sector, after the launch of the country’s first post war cocoa and coffee policy.
The policy was launched on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 in Ganta, Nimba County.
“We are about to launch our first post-war cocoa and coffee policy for the country. We will need more support from the government and partners to make sure that the implementation of the policy becomes a reality,” he stated.
He named logistics and the training of more staff to carry out the cocoa regulations.
“Our entity is highly under-capacitated as we are faced with cross border challenges. We would like to request to the EU that, within the program developed, we can have additional support. This will help a lot in the long run,” the LACRA director general mentioned during the dedication of the warehouse.
The EU Ambassador to Liberia, Laurent Dalahousee confirmed the EU’s continuous support to Liberia’s development drives in agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
“We are directly involved in Liberia’s cocoa sector value chain. As the EU, we have a stake in this partnership. Why are we keen on the support of cocoa? The short and simple answer is cocoa has the potential to be one of the several success stories of Liberia’s development,” he said.
He explained that under the EU’s bilateral financing 2014 to 2020 increasing the productivity of small scale cocoa production and ensuring commercialization of the cocoa sector has been one of the priorities of the EU with the Liberian government.
Meanwhile, the EU Ambassador has called on the government to prioritize the agriculture sector and stop depending on other countries for her food supply, stating that Liberia has the potential to feed its citizens.
Representing the Agriculture Minister Jeanine Milly Cooper at the occasion was Halala Kokulo, Director of Land Development and Water Resource.
Kokulo thanked the EU for supporting the Liberian government and called on LACRA to ensure that the facility is used for the intended purpose.
He stressed the need for the safe handling of cocoa commodities transported to the warehouse from farm gates.
Meanwhile, members of the Exporters Association of the cocoa sector have lauded the partners for their numerous contributions and expressed their willingness to work with LACRA to make the cocoa sector more viable.