The leadership of the National Rice Federation of Liberia (NRFL) has called on President George M. Weah to see reason to include the Federation on the rice stabilization task force recently set up by him.
The Federation in a press release described the setting up of the task force by the President without the representation of the Federation as an oversight, stating that the Government cannot adequately discuss the rice issue facing the country without involving local stakeholders such as the Federation.
“We believe that it was an oversight to not mention the Rice Federation in the Taskforce to address our staple food, rice, which is our concern as well. You cannot discuss the rice issue in Liberia without involving the National Rice Federation of Liberia,” the release said.
President Weah recently set up the rice stabilization task force to ensure the availability of the nation’s staple food on the market. The task force comprises the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Development Planning, Commerce and Industry, State for Presidential Affairs and Ministry of Justice. Others are the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, National Port Authority, Mr. Steve Flahn-Paye, Japanese Counterpart Value Fund and Mr. Charles Bright, Economic Advisor to the President.
According to the President of Liberia the task force is mandated to derive measures on how to stabilize the rice market. However, it is yet not clear if the mandate of the task force extends to domestic rice production.
The setting up of the task force comes after the country has experienced a shortage of rice supply on the local market the past few weeks. This was due to what appeared to be negligence on the part of the Weah administration to promptly disburse money allocated in the budget to subsidize rice imports. The government had initially apportioned US$11 million in the recast budget for this purpose.
Rice subsidy is not a new intervention for the Liberian economy. It has been implemented by the previous administration as a way to ensure food security for the Liberian citizens. There is in fact a report that the Weah administration is contemplating a double rice subsidy in the coming budget due to the global crisis that is bringing about a hike in the price of the commodity.
The Rice Federation said including them on the task force will find a sustainable means to solve the country’s rice problem.
“The Federation's inclusion on the taskforce will help get sustainable solutions to our rice problem, which is in the right direction,” the release said.
Meanwhile, the Federation has lauded the Government of Liberia, through the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, Planning and Development for the Grant assistance for some of its members.
Recently, about 23 farmer-based institutions, including some members of the rice sector, were qualified for the first phase disbursement that is now ongoing.
The grant is provided by the government through the Ministry of Agriculture, under its Liberia Agriculture Commercialization Fund (LACF). The fund is being managed by Delloitte, a Ghanaian financial firm hired by the Ministry.
“We want to appreciate the Minister of Agriculture and her team for the farsightedness to share the affairs of the Ministry of agriculture that is ready to re- energy the farmers to produce more food on the Liberian market,” the Federation said.
The Federation's release urged the Ministry of Agriculture to continue their support to the farming communities as they manage the Fund on behalf of the selected beneficiaries to improve production.
The National Rice Federation of Liberia is a local non-governmental and non-profitable organization (NGO) that is an Umbrella organization for all rice value chain actors in Liberia. NRFL was established in June 2017, to share affairs of the organization with the mandate to create an enabling environment, advocate and mobilize resources through National budget and other sources to be able to reduce hunger and poverty by increasing production.
The organization is a member of the sub regional rice farmers platform or federations ( CRAPA/ROPPA) of ECOWAS and Africa as well as other bodies of the world.
The capacity of members has been strengthened to some extent over the years to ensure the supply of rice domestically. However, challenges such as limited access to loans, and the lack of other agricultural inputs continue to limit the rice sector's potential on the rice market.