Food Safety and Improved Trade Project Launched

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Prof. Wilson Tarpeh, Minister of Commerce and Industry

The Government of Liberia (GoL) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have launched a two-year project aimed at ensuring food safety and improved trade.

The project was launched on October 23, 2019, at a resort in Monrovia.

It brought together officials from the ministries of Commerce, Health, Agriculture and other government agencies and partners.

The project, titled “Strengthening National Control System in Liberia to Ensure Safety of Food and Improved Trade,” will address food safety and control system issues beginning with production, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing as well as utilization.

The initiative is funded through the technical cooperation program (TCP) agreement between the GoL and FAO. It will assist the government to undertake efforts to educate food handlers and consumers on the proper handling of foods.

It can be recalled that recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested technical assistance from FAO to enhance the capacity of the government on national food control and food safety.

Liberia, a food-insecure country, lacks the capacity to promote food safety. The country does have food law and regulatory body to ensure the safety of foods. Inadequate laboratories to test for harmful chemicals and pathogenic organisms in food is also a major constraint. This poses an adverse effect on unsafe food to the public and on farmers’ income for export.

Commerce and Industry Minister Wilson Tarpeh described the importance of the project, which he said would improve the quality of the food value chain.

Tarpeh added that the government will remain engaged with partners to improve food security.

“We thanked FAO for the project and expressed this government’s willingness to ensure food safety in the country,” he said.

He said that the project will promote the government’s development agenda in the areas of increased food production and job creation.

“It will also increase trade positively because when the quality of our food is improved through the assistance from partners, we can be the one to export from that end,” he said.

Mr. Tarpeh said that the government is working with partners to upgrade the capacity of the National Standard Laboratory (NSL), to test the quality of food before exporting them.

According to him, the administration of President George Weah considers seriously the need to revive the economy through agriculture, “therefore, we are going back to the plan that empowered smallholder farmers with loans to produce more food.”

He told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that although there is low funding for agriculture, the government is making frantic efforts to source additional funding from donors.

“President Weah has stressed the importance of agriculture so we will work as a government to create an enabling environment, not only by what is allotted in the national budget for agriculture,” he said.

FAO Country Representative Mariatou Njie said that food safety and improved food and nutrition security are recognized as important for the overall development of the country and, as such, has been highlighted among long-term fundamental issues in the national economic development, which is  aligned with the Liberian government’s national development plan, the Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity (PADP).

“Like several other countries in the African region, Liberia is faced with a number of obstacles and challenges to ensure the safety of foods that are produced and imported,” she said.

Madam Njie said there is a need for the country to understand the situation surrounding food safety by ensuring necessary measures which will mitigate the risks involved with the consumption of unsafe foods.

She meanwhile described food safety as “very significant to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which calls for strengthening the regulatory framework, scientific and technological capacities at all level across the food chains to move toward more sustainable patterns of food production and consumption.”

She further said that FAO remains committed to working closely with the government and other partners, to promote food safety in the country and the African continent.

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