Students of the Liberia International Christian College (LICC) in Ganta, Nimba County are changing the Dynamics of Cocoa production in Liberia by making the first attempt to produce chocolate locally.
Liberia has been a Cocoa producing country but not as compared to the Ivory Coast that is a ranking country in producing this agricultural product.
It all started in 2017 when some students and staff in the Agriculture Department of the college began the experiment to produce chocolate from cocoa.
The students soon discovered that they were able to make delicious rich dark chocolate with the Cocoa beans that had been grown by local farmers.
Since then, the business has established itself as Redimere Chocolates and can now be found in Stores in Ganta as well as Monrovia with the hope of expanding even further. Redimere Chocolates is producing 70% dark chocolate and cocoa tea.
G. Joshua Zemah, Production Manager of Redimere chocolates, explained that “We normally collect quality cocoa beans and place them in an oven since we don’t have a cocoa roaster, and we use our hands to process it further since other materials we need are not yet available. Ninety percent of our work is done with our bare hands.”
Zemah says the company was established to help students pay their school fees.
“We want to help the government to generate revenue and to create jobs for the citizens, especially young people. We want to help redeem the cocoa sector and that is why our company is named ‘Redimere’ which in Latin means ‘redeem’.”
According to Zemah, it takes three days for the company to complete the production of chocolate due to challenges on collecting better quality of cocoa beans.
Unlike many of its neighboring West African nations, Liberia is not known as a traditional mainstream producer of cocoa beans. Statistics from the National Investment Commission (NIC) shows that about 30,000 smallholder farmers are engaged in cocoa production. These farmers produced cocoa at a low scale and rely solely on the crop to generate income, and it has been exported out of the country for processing chocolates and other industrial foods out of it.
Despite the vital role cocoa plays, incentives and opportunities for producers are limited. The limited capacity of smallholder farmers and the lack of reliable market access hamper the development of the cocoa sector.
However, some significant strides have been made to revive the cocoa sector since the end of the Liberian civil war. Farmers are organizing cooperatives to respond to market demands.
There are development programs that are providing extension support and building farmers and cooperatives’ capacity through numerous farmers’ field schools. However, Liberian cocoa is heavily discounted on the world market due to quality concerns, and very little value-addition takes advantage of a growing global demand for single-origin, traceable cocoa products.