-Poised to make cocoa the next rubber in Liberia
Liberia’s Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper has vowed to transform the cocoa sector of the country in order to enhance smallholder farming, agripreneur and protect the forests of Liberia.
Minister Cooper made the remarks on Thursday, June 25, 2020, at a resort in Monrovia during a meeting intended to reactivate the cocoa sector platform, which was already existing but got dormant in recent times.
Minister Cooper said farmers need support to enhance the production of cocoa in Liberia, adding, “We can do something about supporting the farmers if we know where they are and what they actually need because there are partners who are willing to support them.
“We need to support farmers across the country so that they are able to produce the quality of cocoa we want and also ensure that it commensurates with the price that the farmers are also able to get,” she said.
According to her, while there are many challenges within the cocoa sector, including the lack of training for farmers, there are also lots of opportunities coming up for farmers, and she hopes they (farmers) will take advantage of the upcoming opportunities to enhance productivity.
“Today, we have a company in Liberia producing chocolate. Interestingly, if you eat the chocolate, you will not know the difference of chocolate produced in Swaziland or Canada from the one being produced in Liberia. We have few people processing chocolate now in Liberia,” Minister Cooper said.
She said the cocoa sector is poised to industrialize and is realizing some good gains, thereby making cocoa to become the next rubber in Liberia. She said Liberia has identified some of the equipment needed to produce chocolate and other things, and this was made possible through an assessment visit to a few countries in March.
The daylong event brought together farmers, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), donors, exporters, processors, and the Liberia Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (LACRA). The meeting was also followed by some people through zooming.
Minister Cooper said Liberia is now getting into a season in which farmers would need to start planting cocoa, which requires coordination among the various groups. Minister Cooper said she was delighted to see this happening in the various sectors.
“This is welcoming for me at this time. It has been difficult for me to engage our people and partners in the sector because of the health crisis which was confirmed in Liberia three weeks after I took over the ministry,” Minister Cooper said.
She said coordination in the cocoa area has been a serious problem, but the creation of the new platform will help to engage everyone in the sector and also assist in improving the cocoa sector of Liberia.
Former Representative of Montserrado County District #1, Josephine Francis, who is also involved with agricultural activities, said investment in the cocoa sector will allow Liberia to compete with Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Madam Francis said, “Trying to lift people out of poverty and seeing them having cash crops like cocoa is a good thing. Today, Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa and we can be like them if more investment is done in the sector.”
Madam Francis, who is also the president of the Farmers Union Network, said Nimba alone has over 2,000 cocoa producers, which shows that Liberia can make so much money from cocoa if the government invests cash and also provide training opportunities for farmers.
“We need to tap into the cocoa sector. We need to focus on the youth who will try to take over from their parents. Liberia can be one of the countries that will export a huge amount of cocoa to the international market,” she stressed.
Deputy Finance Minister for Budget, Tenneh Brunson, praised the initiative, pledging the ministry’s commitment to enhancing Liberia’s cocoa sector. She said the government will continue to support agriculture.
About the National Cocoa Sector Platform (NC3P)
The Liberian National Cocoa Sector Public-Private Platform, also known as the NC3P, is a public-private platform that has played a significant role in the visioning, coordination, and facilitation of some key interventions within the cocoa sector.
The vision statement of the platform is “towards a sustainable cocoa sector that enhances smallholder farmers, agripreneurs and protects the forests of Liberia.”
The platform was established in 2019, as part of the result of the Liberian Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme 1 (LISCIP), which is a 4-year initiative funded by the European Union and implemented by Solidaridad West Africa and partners 2.
Over the past year, the platform has made significant headways, notably with capacity-building initiatives, such as facilitating recommendations on issues related to cocoa regulations and proposed legislation and facilitating of group discussions/networking among stakeholders.
Other issues are about co-facilitating the attendance of platform stakeholders in the international cocoa sector related events.
Meanwhile, in order to make these achievements possible, the platform has initiated a governance structure comprising a General Assembly, a Steering Committee, a Secretariat (led by IDH Liberia), and several technical committees.