Agriculture Minister, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, has spoken of some challenges facing the agricultural sector of Liberia and has called on the government to provide more funding toward the sector.
She named constraints such as limited farming equipment to enhance mechanized agriculture, the lack of insecticides to treat fruit crop, and limited agriculture loans for local farmers as major problems.
Minister Chenoweth made the statement recently at a conference in Monrovia.
“It is time that government takes bold steps toward mechanization of agriculture in the country, if we are going to become self-sufficient in food,” she said.
She disclosed that there is insufficient modern equipment presently at her Ministry to distribute to various farming organizations across the country.
“At the moment there are only 13 tractors at the Ministry of Agriculture to get to local farmers. We are moving these machines to the various counties where farming activities are active. But what can a single power tiller or tractor do in a county? she asked.
“This is a serious challenge which we have brought to the attention of the government. Therefore, we are looking forward to the delivery,” she added.
Minister Chenoweth furthered that there are no actual statistics for the production of fruit, adding that the lack of insecticide poses a serious constraint toward fruit production.
She said that most fruit grown in Liberia are damaged by insects, thus making fruit processing by some Liberian entrepreneurs difficult.
“The Wulki Farm, which is owned by the Ureys in Careysburg District, is no longer processing fruit for the market, due to the lack of chemical to control the infestation of insects. All of the oranges, grape fruits and others were damaged by insect on the farm, leading the farm to cease the processing of fruit,” she explaines.
She stated that more money was needed to purchase insecticides to enable farmers combat those pests in order to produce juices on the local market.
According to the Agriculture Minister, the Ministry does not have all the funding to take care of purchasing agro chemical like pesticide to enhance fruit crop production in the country.
She further mentioned that government has made some effort toward addressing the issue of agricultural financing for local farmers.
“The issue of access to loan for local farmers has also been a major challenge. Many commercial banks in the country are not willing to do business with farmers as they see it as risky. However, we are thankful to the Central Bank of Liberia(CBL) for providing some money last year to loan out to our farmers,” she said.
Minister Chenoweth, however, pointed out the need for the CBL to put in place a proper mechanism that will ensure that most local farmers benefit loan to improve their farms.
“Most Liberian farmers are lacking the collateral to get loan and there is high interest rate on the money borrowed. We want a system that will help most of our poor farmers to get loans,” she concluded.