-Seeks private sector and government’s involvement
Taa Wongbe, a senatorial candidate hopeful in Nimba County for the pending December 8 Special Senatorial Election across Liberia, has begun negotiation with a top business tycoon in the United States of America to consider investing his money into rice farming in Liberia so as to curtail the hundred percent importation of the country’s staple food, rice.
In a podcast on his Facebook account, Wongbe said his push for Liberia to make a significant gain in reducing the one hundred percent importation of rice into the country is void of politics.
“Well, I know thoughts get twisted by people but my wish to rally the support of a few financially well-off persons here in America is intended to help my country. In fact, for those who know me well, I have a farm in Liberia. I grow rice and other crops in Nimba annually but in order for us to do it on a large scale we need lots of support,” he said.
Although he did not mention the name of the millionaire he is appealing to, to visit Liberia and consider exploring ideas on locally producing rice for the country, he expressed confidence that if the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)’s led government provides the space, Liberia can succeed in instituting and securing food security.
He boasted that he has friends in America and other parts of the world who have enough money. Some of them are millionaires who would love to invest in large scale rice farming in Liberia but also wish for fair playing ground, including better security.
Presently, the country imports fourteen million (14,000,000) 25 kg bags of rice annually at the cost of US$200 million, thereby leading the country to more poverty rather than raising it to self-sufficiency radar.
“Many people don’t like our rice. This is why we need local producers to come together and invest in an awareness campaign. At this stage, we don’t need the government’s involvement. When people appreciate their own rice and recognize the value it has, they will do their best by working harder,” Wongbe said.
He added that while investors are needed to boost the sector, the government needs to consider subsidizing small farm holders.
“If the government can consider cutting the US$200,000,000 by US$15,000,000 and assign that amount to subsidize local rice production; it is possible for the same government to generate US$20 to 30 million or more in revenue collection from the same farmers,” he analyzed.
According to him, if the government considers using US$15,000,000 of the US$200,000,000 used for the importation of rice on supporting local farms, the price of rice will possibly drop to at least US$10 per 25 kg bag of rice.
“This will bring about competition with imported rice. This will give us the compelling advantage we need in the sector and more jobs will be created for the many unemployed people in the country. It will reduce the overwhelming search for government jobs and give food security to people in the faraway rural parts of the country,” Wongbe noted.
He recommended that should his idea be considered by the CDC-led government and the general farming population of the country, construction of rice hubs in all of the 15 counties for people to easily clean their rice and get their rice ready for the market would be of great help.
“Lo, this is completely void of politics. I am not campaigning for a political seat. What I am discussing here concerns us all and for too long many other people have spoken in the same direction but the action is yet to be taken in order to get Liberia to a food security status,” he continued.
He said, in the U.S., the government subsidizes local rice farmers and upon harvesting, the farmers pay taxes to the government, thereby allowing the sector to remain stable and irreversible.
Wongbe noted that in order for the country to relieve itself from the continuous dependency syndrome, practical actions must be taken rather than relying on only theories.
“When there is sufficient food and less expensive for people to afford, poverty takes on a new dimension. Life cannot be so complex as it is now. This is why we should revolutionize the agriculture sector in the country,” he said.
Liberia’s fiscal budget for 2019/2020 has in its two percent or a little over US$10 million for agriculture, thereby leading to more flops than gains in the sector due to the smallness of the amount.
Taa Wongbe is an executive member of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) of businessman turned politician, Alexander Benedict Cummings.
ANC is a member of the four Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), including the former ruling Unity Party (UP), the Liberty Party (LP), the All Liberian Party (ALP) of businessman turned politician, Benoni Wilfred Urey.