More Support Needed for Vegetables Farmers to Scale-up Production, Overcome Market Challenge

A subsistence Liberian farmer and his family cultivate local vegetables crops

As Liberia's economy struggles to recover from local and global economic shocks over the years, there is a growing demand for vegetables, especially fresh, high-quality vegetables supplied mainly for the Monrovia markets. Many Liberian vegetable farmers are subsistence farmers who cultivate local vegetables intercropped with other major produce during the rainy season, a time when more local vegetables are on the market. The majority of their yield is mainly for home consumption with any surplus taken to the local markets for sale. 

As a result of the limited skilled vegetable farmers who tried to meet the demand for vegetables on the market during the dry season, and the lack of adequate technologies to enable vegetable farmers to cultivate exotic vegetables, particularly during heavy rainfall, Liberia still imports nearly half of its vegetables supply, creating a large unmet domestic demand. Heavy rain can decimate vegetable patches during the rainy season, so high value vegetables can’t easily be produced, except by the use of technology like rain shelters or a greenhouse. 

Interestingly, vegetable production still remains an area of potential for income generation for Liberians farmers. But, many vegetable farmers, mainly specialized producers, still lack inputs such as fertilizers, appropriate seeds and agro chemicals, lack of storage to expand their vegetable yields as well as enhance market linkages to the buyers around Monrovia to attract better profits.

Increasing vegetables production 

Using improved technologies are important to increasing the yield of Liberian vegetable producers. Unlike the past years, when Liberia had enormous developmental assistance for agriculture to support farmers, many vegetable farmers today find it difficult to increase production, due to limited support. Despite the government’s effort to reduce the prices of agricultural products, through the duty free on agriculture equipment issued by President George M. Weah, inputs for farmers are still not affordable on the market.

It is discovered that many agro inputs dealers are still paying import duties to order agriculture inputs, thus keeping the prices of inputs high on the market. Some agro dealers have said that they were not educated about the duty free to enable them to take advantage.

President Weah in fulfillment to his commitment for agriculture renewed the duty free some time last year, but it will elapse by September, next month.

Agro inputs dealers’ inability to work as a group to access the duty free has also caused the price for inputs to remain the same on the market. 

Improving market for vegetables farmers

Most vegetables get spoiled on the market due to the lack of storage facilities. This situation lowers the incomes of smallholder vegetables farmers. The issue of lack of storage facility is something that farmers and traders have raised to the government to prioritize to improve their living conditions. However, since nothing has been done to address the issue, larger market centers, particularly in greater Monrovia, need storage to improve vegetable marketing.

The government should increase support for vegetable farmers. Farmers need necessary inputs, particularly mechanized equipment to enable them to expand production. They should be given improved seeds, fertilizers and loans, if the country is to meet the demand for vegetables on the domestic market.