President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has disclosed that government has allotted US$9.3 million in the national budget for Liberian farmers to access more loan opportunities.
She made the disclosure Monday, January 27, when she delivered her Annual Message at the Capitol Building to the National Legislature, in Monrovia.
In her deliberation, President Sirleaf furthered that a 3-year annual investment of US$1.7 million is intended for the support of farmers engaged in lowland rice production.
She also added that another US$2.3 million has been identified for mechanized farming in a 3-year proposal for annual investment.
However, President Sirleaf admitted that government’s investments over the years have not been enough to revamp the agriculture sector.
“Food security is listed as a national priority, but we must admit that there has been underinvestment in both the public (government) and private sectors. Only massive investment can allow this under-performing sector to play the vital role of delivering inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability and long term poverty reduction,” she explained.
She stated that government lacks all of the resources needed to support the sector and there is a need to encourage private investors.
“Our scarce budget resources cannot do this given the many other priorities, so we will need to attract investment for the private sector,” she admitted.
She also noted that the investors would not be willing to invest in the agriculture sector if Liberians continue to strive.
The President further disclosed that consistent with national priority, the Ministry of Agriculture has mobilized smallholder farmers with production potential in rubber, cocoa, and coffee for export and employment opportunities.
She continued that more needed to be done to support subsistence farmers in the country engaged in livestock and food crop production, adding that such empowerment goes beyond just supplying seeds and tools.
Madam Sirleaf detailed progress in developing Liberia’s poultry industry after the prolong civil war.
“Progress has been made in revamping poultry production with direct investment from former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. This farm is located in Grand Cape Mount County,” she disclosed.
Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of the Farmer Union Network of Liberia (FUN), Reverend Robert Bimba welcomed the President’s annual massage, but noted that government has failed to prioritize agriculture for poverty reduction in the lives of many subsistence farmers in the country.
Rev. Bimba spoke to the Daily Observer via mobile phone on Monday in a conversation immediately after the President’s massage.
“We have constantly told this government that agriculture is not being prioritized to improve food security to a greater extent. Government funding toward the sector continues to be limited, far below the Maputo declaration on food security,” he said on the phone.
Commenting on the agriculture loan allotted in the national budget for farmers, the FUN coordinator noted that such money required an organized discussion with agriculture stakeholders as to how it would benefit local farmers.
“We are fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the US$7.5 million dollars loan scheme from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) last year. This money did not take into consideration discussions with various stakeholders in the agriculture sector to benefit local farmers to show transparency,” he noted.