It was an especially joyous tiding when the Daily Observer reported yesterday that FABRAR Liberia Incorporated, through partnership with NOBEL, agreed to export Liberian grown rice to the United States so that Liberian communities in that country may have a taste of their country’s home-grown rice.
Such exportation would not only bring pride and delight to Liberians abroad, who will be able to taste their own staple in a foreign country. It will also financially empower local rice farmers to meet the needs of their families and even produce more.
Beyond that, exporting Liberian grown rice will further motivate farmers and even non-farmers to pay more attention to farming, and boost Liberia’s foreign exchange earnings as well.
There is no doubt that Liberia is endowed with great natural resources, including vast acreage of fertile soils, both upland and lowland, on which almost anything can grow. But unfortunately for us, we have failed to make use of the blessings the good LORD has given us, and this failure has made us perpetually dependent on other countries, including India, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam, among others, for our staple food.
Liberia’s reluctance to pursue effective agricultural self-sufficiency is due particularly to the lack of a clear agricultural policy. For example, what policy is there to protect Liberians who wish to make agriculture a business? What particular policy has there ever been to ensure that our farmers are given the greatest incentive to grow rice? The government has never had a meat policy, to empower Liberians to grow cattle, develop pork farms, sheep and goat production and poultry. Where is our vegetable policy that would make it totally unnecessary to import pepper, tomatoes and other vegetables from Guinea and the Ivory Coast by growing these produce ourselves?
This newspaper has often recalled the letter which the Trinidad-born immigrant, George Stanfield Best, wrote to President W.V.S. Tubman in January 1944, at the commencement of his administration, suggesting to him to invest in the canning of our fruits and vegetables, to stop them from rotting. Unfortunately, that letter was never replied.
So here we are, three quarters of a century later, and we still cannot can a single orange, mango or tomato!
For the past 11 years of this administration, this newspaper, the Daily Observer, has been calling for an Agricultural Policy. We understand that the previous Agriculture Minister, Dr. Moses Zinnah, developed one, but it was never publicized.
The lack of a comprehensive, lucid and well-defined Agriculture Policy has critically hampered our agricultural development. This is why though we highly commend the management of FABRAR for expressing its willingness to help NOBEL to export some of its rice to the United States; yet we fear that the lack of a clear policy on rice, its productivity and marketing, may limit the effectiveness and sustainability of this worthy initiative by NOBEL and its partners.
It is most certainly not our intention to frustrate this noble initiative by NOBEL and its partners by pegging it to a government policy. We think these entrepreneurs have done a great thing in taking this bold initiative to help sell Liberian rice abroad, something this government failed to do when during the early part of this year when our rice farmers in Lofa and Nimba counties produced a whole lot of rice and could not sell it, and no one to care.
What we are thinking of is the long term and sustainability.
It would most certainly be in everyone’s interest—our rice farmers, the businesspeople like NOBEL and others, the nation’s fiscal managers—the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL)—and the government itself if these businesspeople, NOBEL and partners, can succeed in marketing our agricultural produce internationally, especially rice, that could put some foreign exchange into our farmers’ pockets, most especially our rice farmers.
This could inspire an agricultural revolution. We all need to watch this initiative very closely and give it all our encouragement and support.