The Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA), the government agency responsible for regulating the cocoa and coffee sector and other agricultural commodities in Liberia, has launched the country's first post war cocoa and coffee policy.
The policy was launched on November 16, in Ganta, Nimba County attended by stakeholders in the sector.
The policy seeks to address the issue of quality trade and commerce, license and authorization of companies as well as standards, exporters handling of cocoa, guidelines for quality control for cocoa marketing, pricing, requirements of farmers and cooperatives, among other regulations.
Solidaridad, with support from the European Union, has worked with LACRA to develop the country's cocoa and coffee framework so as to ensure proper regulation for the improvement of the lives of farmers, exporters and other value chain members and to generate revenue for the nation.
Liberia is blessed with a tropical rainforest and ideal climate for the growth and production of cocoa and coffee. Before the civil war, farmers tended cocoa and coffee and sold the beans for export on the world market. But due to the war, the quality of cocoa and coffee declined on the world market.
In recent years with the help of development partners, Liberia's cocoa beans are said to be graded excellent on the global market.
President George M. Weah in his last annual address stated that Liberia’s cocoa has gone from grade D to grade A in quality.
Yes, Liberia now has a policy in place to regulate the sector in order to improve the economy. However, the cocoa and coffee sector still faces challenges including limited budgetary allocation for the sector's regulatory body (LACRA), illegal trading at border points, as well as other constraints.
The Director General at LACRA, Dr. John S. Flomo, during the launch of the policy on Wednesday in Ganta, said the challenges and called on the government and partners to support his entity with the necessary logistics and equipment so as to adequately implement the policy.
“In the midst of developing the law we have challenges with the issues of limited staff to carry out monitoring. We are working to increase our staff in the various counties, especially at the borders. We do not have enough funding to provide more support to the policy,” Flomo said.
Flomo added that his entity is a new government functionary that took over from the Liberia Produce Marketing Authority (LMPC), a defunct regulatory body, which was established before the war.
“Prior to the war LPMC was managing the sector, buying commodities from farmers, making provision for loans to empower the farmers and exporting the cocoa and coffee commodities out of the country. This was the primary responsibility of that entity then. But with the coming of LACRA, we have a change of mandate that limits us to only regulation. The change happened in 2016 under the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that brought our entity into existence,” he explained.
According to him, for the last 4 years they have worked tirelessly to draft the first post war policy that aims to further develop the cocoa and coffee sector.
He said that the policy was important to ensure that the sector has a clear regulation to improve the sector.
The Director mentioned that though his entity is being supported with limited funding with the support from development partners, they have been able to construct warehouses in producing counties as well as supporting farmers in production.
“Indeed the period has been a time of successes, though with numerous challenges. The policy today has been in motion since and it covered so many issues that are intended to improve the sector. For people to export out of the country what are the criteria to do it is what the policy aims to address,” he further added.
He said that it is the responsibility for his entity to regulate all agricultural commodities, except rubber.
“And there is a plan to derive policies for other agricultural commodities under our mandate but we are doing so at a gradual process.
According to him, within the next one month his institution is expected to launch a policy for the oil palm sector.
Flomo said there is an issue confronting the oil palm sector particularly, as it relates to the activities of smallholder farmers and concessions.
“We are expected to launch the oil palm policy soon. There are so many issues with stallholder farmers and concessions so we will have to get this policy in place,” the LACRA director said.
Flomo informed his audience that countries like the Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are doing very well with their cocoa and coffee industries, contributing billions of dollars to their respective governments’ revenues.
“We know that these countries have volumes to produce. So we, too, can do likewise if we ensure that the policy is supported. The monies to build bridges in other neighboring countries come from the cocoa and coffee sector. Here in this country we hardly get money from our cocoa to support the government’s budget, but we can do our best to bring about the necessary changes,” the director confidently expressed.
Meanwhile, he revealed that lawmakers were studying the possibility of looking at LACRA from a direction of the LPMC model to move the cocoa sector forward.
“A committee is studying on what we need to do to make the sector more viable. Does this mean that we are going to amend the act that established LACRA, this is something that we are looking into,” he revealed.
For his part, the Country Representative of Solidaridad West Africa (Liberia), Micheal S. Doe, said that the cocoa policy will help increase compliance in the sector thereby making LACRA to improve on its operations.
“It is going to help improve standards, although implementing a policy is sometimes difficult due to the lack of capacity. For this policy to become successful, there must be more financial support to LACRA to ensure the training of its staff. If this does not happen the policy will not become a reality,” he emphatically stated.
Doe said that they are fully aware that LACRA is underfunded but undue political influence can stall the implementation of policy.
He cautioned LACRA to do all they can to make sure that the policy works for the sector.
A. Tijani Darrah, a member of the Cocoa exporter association said that they were grateful to LACRA for drafting the policy, something he stated that it was truly in the interest of members of the association.
He promised the willingness of the exporters' association to work with LACRA to make the sector a great one.