The President of the National Cocoa Exporters Association of Liberia (LINACEA), Sheikh A.Turay, has refuted claims by authorities at the Liberia Agriculture Commodities Regulatory Authorities (LACRA) that the Liberian economy can experience growth if the LACRA Act of 2016 is amended to provide exclusive rights to the entity to export cocoa and coffee.
LINACEA president has argued that allowing LACRA to have monopoly on the exportation of the cash crops will not be in the best interest of the country, rather the act should maintain open competition among actors of the sector.
Recently, the Communication Director of LACRA, Gordon Garway, posted on the LACRA’s social media platform that the bill to amend LACRA, if considered will greatly benefit the country in terms of revenue generation for the government; and the improvement of the lives of smallholder cocoa and coffee farmers.
According to Garway, the good intention of the bill has been misconstrued by the public, especially Liberian exporters whose contributions, he claimed, are of less significance in the sector.
“The amendment of the Act will empower LACRA to transform the sector which exporters have failed to do over the years,” Garway further argued. “We shall have the opportunity to reduce poverty in the lives of farmers and raise more revenues for the government to undertake needed projects,”
In counter argument, Turay maintained that the act needs to be retrieved from committee room at the House because it has the propensity to undermine the many developments done in the sector by international partners,” he said.
According to him, monopoly in the cocoa sector will create uncertainties for all actors, including farmers.
“Consider what is happening today in the rubber sector, where a single entity is responsible to buy rubber from smallholder farmers. The farmers have lost the opportunity to sell their produce because the company (Firestone) has said that they cannot continue to transact business with farmers,” he said.
“In fact LACRA as an entity of government to have exclusive rights for export lacks the capacity. This bill has a hidden intention to deny local exporters the opportunity for business and include those foreigners who are afraid of competitions,” he said. “As as result of the existing competition, smallholder farmers are obtaining attractive prices from cocoa as compared to neighboring countries. It is the competition in the sector that drives the price,” he stated.
According to Turay, the bill among other thing states that exclusive rights to LACRA will empower the entity to work with any exporters they wish.
“Why will you want to endorse such a legislation that will disregard procurement processes,” he asked.
Although, LACRA is not the crafter of the bill that is currently before the legislature for amendment, the management has since welcome the action.
Bong County District #5 Representative, Edward Karfiah who is the chairman of the House’s Public Account and Expenditure Committee is the sponsor of the bill.
The LACRA Act was passed in 2016 during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and approved by the 53rd Legislature, which abolished the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC).
The new law established the entity as a semi-autonomous agency of the government and shall be under the general supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Its functions, among other things, are to administer and promote the agriculture export trade of Liberia, to increase agriculture productivity competitiveness, value chain development and environmental sustainability, especially for smallholders, including women and youth and to promote a robust, competitive and modernized agriculture sector support of sustainable economic growth and development.
The Act also allows LACRA to license exporters and serve as an advisory and dispute resolution body but does not give LACRA the right to export or resume the responsibility of the defunct LPMC.