Quality control agents trained
As part of improving the cocoa sector in Liberia, the Liberia Agriculture, Commercial Regulatory Agency has begun a three-day training for quality control agents/officers of LACRA.
According to the Director General of LACRA Dr. John S. Flomo, the training will enhance the ability of the quality Control agents to ensure that farmers carry on the best practices in the farming of cocoa, in term of meeting the type of cocoa quality to the world market standard.
He said the training is part of the usual activities, but this one is going in depth into how the quality control agents can assess the quality of cocoa, work with farmers and cooperative to manage their warehouses and also provide some assistants to farmers.
When asked about his observations of the cocoa sector in Liberia, Dr. Flomo cited some challenges, especially cocoa quality control, lack of funding for farmers and the difficulty farmers face in acquiring cocoa seedlings.
In addressing some of the challenges, Dr. Flomo said in 2019, LACRA distributed 8,000 seedlings to farmers in Grand Cape Mount County and developed a nursery in Grand Bassa County, while looking forward to providing more to farmers so they increase the size of their farm for more cocoa production.
For those trained, he said they will enforce some government regulation concerning quality control, help to train farmers, as well as travel to all border points with Liberia to ensure that there is no illegal trade of cocoa.
“Lots of our cocoa is going across the border, especially Sierra Leone, and these agents will work alongside the Liberia Immigration Service to ensure that our cocoa does not leave the country illegally,” he said.
Dr. Flomo explained that four of those trained will be assigned to Lofa, while four will be assigned in Nimba.
Some of the training topics covered include harvest and post-harvest management practices, which consist of harvest, storage and pod breaking, cocoa pod maturity, fermentation of cocoa beans: heap fermentation, basket and box fermentation, soaking beans after fermentation, drying of cocoa beans; Raised bed, solar dryer, concrete floor, tarpaulin and mechanical drying.
Other topics include cocoa quality and its determinant, good warehouse practices, and quality control inspections, among others.
However, Dr. Flomo has said that there are many illegal dealers involved in exporting and buying of cocoa. This, he sounded as a warning for farmers to get registered with LACRA and Certificated.
“We have regulations for anyone wishing to do cocoa business and the regulation is in four layers, including exporter, agent, licensed buying company, agent, cooperative and farmer,” he said. “All of these layers have different prices,” he added.