The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has released an emergency food security plan that seeks to strengthen production and to provide regular situational reports to stakeholders and the public on how food and nutrition security will be coordinated to benefit citizens amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since the emergence of the global pandemic in March 2020 in Liberia, there are reports that smallholder farmers and others in the food value chain are finding it difficult to increase production and to access better markets due to stringent health restrictions being imposed by the government.
Some stakeholders in the agricultural sector have raised concerns about the role of the MOA in regard to the health crisis, stating that without measures for agriculture during this state of emergency period, the country’s food insecurity situation could rapidly worsen.
President George M. Weah declared the state of emergency earlier this April to restrict the movements of the citizens as a means of curbing the further spread of the virus.
Liberia is heavily dependent on food imports with 70 percent of rice, its staple food, being imported.
According to the MOA press release, COVID-19 triggered a global recession and could give rise to rice shortages and other food when the current 6-month stock runs out.
“Within the next few months the country’s resilience to food security shocks can be strengthened to significantly reduce dependency on food imports; and boost rural employment and livelihoods,” the release said.
“In managing this crisis in Liberia, we have a unique opportunity. We have four months, at best, to get crops in the ground; to boost our processing and storage capacities, and to build strategic food reserves,” the release added.
According to the release, the plan primarily targets boosting the production of rice, cassava, beans, edible oils, (oil palm and coconut) fruits and vegetables, as well as poultry.
With full implementation, the release disclosed that Liberia expects to produce 100,000 metric tons of staple foods that can displace up to 15% of imports and establish strategic food reserves and build and grow several agribusinesses as well as fabricate high-quality products for the domestic and export markets.
“The MOA proposes to drive a massive program of food production and cash crops resilience over the next 9-12 months, involving government contribution and management, private sector investment and international development funding,” the release further stated.