Fabra’s Bold Initiative: Modern Rice Processing in Liberia

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Fabra Liberia Inc., a wholly Liberian-owned agricultural holding company, has begun modern rice processing in Kakata, Margibi County.

Our Reporter, Gloria Tamba, reported that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf inaugurated the facility last week, and praised Fabra for its persistence and determination over the past five years it took to own its first rice processing facility. 

Said the President during the ceremony, “I’m glad that Liberia has its first industrial rice processing and warehousing facility which stands to benefit the citizens.  I want to see more industrial processing plants that will create job opportunities . . .”

The President lamented that Liberia continues to be known as an exporter of iron ore, rubber and timber, but not agricultural commodities.  She urged Liberians to develop processing plants that would produce fruit juices as well.   This would stop our many fruits, such as citrus (grape fruit, lime, orange and tangerine) from rotting.  The surplus production of these fruits would be processed into canned juices for local and foreign consumption, and curtail the necessity of importing such commodities, as we have done from time immemorial.

Thank God for the President’s recognition of the need for processing fruit juices.  Most Liberians have never heard the story about a letter that was written to President William V.S. Tubman during his first year as President.  The letter was written to him in June 1944 by a man named George S. Best, patriarch of the Best family in Liberia.  In his letter, Mr. Best, who was also an agriculturist, urged the President, at the onset of his administration, to open canning factories to produce fruit juices from the many, many fruits that could be found rotting each year all over the country. George Best then told the President that he had enough time to make this happen—eight years in office.

The mention of eight years was probably Mr. Best’s mistake.  He never received a reply to his letter.  His children years later found the letter in their father’s carefully maintained archives; but there was not a trace of a reply from the President.  And, of course, throughout his 27 years in office, there was never a canning factory in Liberia. 

Now, over 70 years later, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is dreaming of the day when we will start canning fruit juices in Liberia!

Oh! How we have LOST TIME IN LIBERIA!  If the leadership could not accept the idea of a simple canning factory to stop our fruits from rotting, no wonder they never thought of encouraging Firestone to start manufacturing automobile tires and other rubber products in Liberia—not even after Liberia helped create the extensive West African market through founding of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

President Sirleaf’s dream of canning fruit juices in Liberia is a great idea whose time came 70 years ago, but the idea was shot down.  We encourage Liberians with land to start fruit plantations—almond, which grows plentifully in Liberia but which again, like cashew nuts, has been ignored; mango, German and golden plums; citrus and so many other fruits grown all over Liberia. 

Such plantations could create new industries in Liberia in the same way one of Liberia’s latest entrepreneurs, Fabio Levelanet, has created the modern rice processing enterprise.

It is not entirely clear where Fabio will get the rice to keep his processing machines constantly running to produce processed rice for packaging and bagging.  We earnestly hope that he has already conceived the idea of encouraging the creation of  large scale mechanized rice farms in many parts of the country, both lowland and upland, that will keep his processing machines busy throughout the year.   

Should this be done, then one day soon there will come a time when Liberia will no longer need to import rice.   When that day comes, the Central Bank of Liberia and other economic and financial watchers will no longer be reporting that Liberia spends over US$300 million annually on rice imports alone.  Instead, we would rather be exporting rice to some of our neighbors, and beyond. 

 

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