By: Jerromie S. Walters
Sinkor, Liberia: A detailed study by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), a pan-African economic policy institute, is showing major hurdles on Liberia’s Cocoa Value Chain sector, thus suppressing vibrant cocoa production in Liberia.
Delivering the study findings at a validation meeting recently in Monrovia, ACET team indicated that the report findings pointed out among other things, first mile transport problems, financial inclusion, access to inputs, as well as storage and markets.
However, the initial report of the study identifies innovations that can be domesticated by leveraging partnerships with key stakeholders and learning from regional peers, as local government agencies’ challenges also intertwined with the INGO’s (ACET) study report.
The validation workshop which was held under a USAID project called Liberia Economics Policy Dialogue Activity (LEPDA), intrinsically focused on binding constraints on the growth of Liberia’s cocoa value chain, through its study findings and proffered recommendations to explore the sector.
Highlighting cardinal data of the study, ACET Project Task Manager Mr. George Boateng said the survey featured 179 persons from Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties which are considered as the three cocoa-growing counties of Liberia.
Data from the study further shows that
50% of those interviewed have no formal education thus creating huge education gap in the Cocoa Value chain sector. Of the 179 respondents, 34 have some primary education and 32 completed secondary education. Also, due to lack of transportation means (bicycle or car), farmers are left with little or no alternative but to sell at the farm gate, thereby yielding no profits in sales. 78% of the farmers highlighted in the survey are male, while 22% female.
Meanwhile, the Director General for Operation and Technical Services at the Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA), Mr. Musa Konneh, attributed the issue of low budgetary allotment as a major suppression on the institution’s ability to regulate the price of cocoa on the Liberian market. The 2021/2022 budget indicates a total of US$426,000 for LACRA’s operation.
According to him, though some improvements are being made at the institution on Liberia’s current position in Exporting grade one cocoa, which is one of the highest grades of cocoa in the world, but highlighted the need for more allotment to boost LACRA’S work.
As regulator, Mr Konneh said LACRA is greatly challenged with the regulation of cocoa across Liberia, especially with the exports and imports, as well as data collection, as he said exports are not coming through the proper channel (s).
At the same time, the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) Boss Madam Regina Sokan-Teah attributed the CDA challenges to insufficient fundings to execute their responsibilities. She also stressed the need for logistics, (vehicles) to aid in visiting the various counties, as part of their responsibility as an entity.
Madam Regina Sokan-Teah also encouraged INGOs and NGOs interested in working with framers across Liberia, or giving them loan, to working closely with the CDA, to avoid loses, or confrontation.
For his part, Hon Clemenceau Urey, President of the Atlantic Cocoa Exporting/Importing Company in a panel discussion at the event, stressed the need for proper cooperatives to be established and well managed for an enabling environment which will inform more policy formulation for theirsupport through the necessary agencies. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that Liberians species or seedings are used for proper production than having it purchased from other countries.
Mr. Urey also recommended the need for the creation or availability of Financial institutions (agricultural bank) by government, as it used to be years ago with the agricultural development bank which was established to attend to the natures of agricultural activities.
The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) is collaborating with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Liberia to conduct a one-year study on Liberia’s cocoa value chain. The study is funded by the USAID under the Liberia Economic Policy Dialogue Activity (LEPDA). LEPDA is a four-year technical assistance, capacity development, and grants project that aims to foster self-reliance by spurring private sector-led economic expansion in Liberia. The project seeks among other things, to increase citizens participation and advocacy in the policy-making arena by strengthening CSOs’ capacity to conduct robust policy analysis and become effective partners in the policymaking process.
The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) is a pan-African economic policy institute that supports governments and businesses to transform economies and deliver sustainable growth that improves livelihoods.