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Liberia Increases Rice Production By 53%

02 April 2024

Liberia’s agriculture minister, Dr. J. Alexander Nuetah, said the country increased domestic rice production by 53 percent last year.

Minister Nuetah said Liberia increasing domestic rice production is a remarkable success.

“I realized that from the Emergency Rice Production Offensive (ERPO) initiative report, we were able as a nation to develop 18,000 hectares with rice seed varieties, which I think is remarkable. It is remarkable because, at the results of the intervention based on the record, we were able to produce 30,000 metric tons of rice, which is a part of our success stories,” he recently said during the opening of the Stakeholders Engagement Forum on Addressing Pricing and Market Linkages in the rice and cassava value chains.

The Stakeholders Engagement Forum was held in Monrovia last week to address challenges within the rice and cassava value chains following the successful implementation of the Liberian government’s World Bank-funded ERPO initiative. 

Liberia relies significantly on rice imports to meet consumption requirements for its population. A Food and Agriculture Organization report shows that in 2022, the country imported approximately 350,000 metric tons of rice.

According to the World Bank 2023 report, growth in the agricultural sector accelerated to 5.9 percent in 2022 from 3.3 percent in 2021, driven mainly by an increase in the production of rice and cassava. 

The agriculture minister has set a target of supporting farmers in producing 50,000 metric tons of rice annually within the next six years.

He said that the country’s development of 50,000 lowlands will ensure sufficient rice annually to reduce importation.

Nuetah said stakeholders should see the engagement forum as an opportunity to reflect on the success of the Rice Offensive initiative.

It can be recalled that the previous administration of his ministry promised last year to increase the production of local rice by 50 percent. 

However, the new minister reported that farmers who were supported under the initiative were finding it difficult to market the several metric tons of paddy rice produced, and his ministry is going to work to find a solution. 

“We encourage people to go into farming to generate income. When farmers produce metric tons of rice, there must be off-takers. This forum is supposed to drive the discussion about the off-takers and the producers so that we can find an amicable solution. But this is only possible when prices are real. If you tell me a quantity of metric tons is out there, I must be able to find the resources to purchase it,” he said.

“I want this pricing issue to be based on facts. Agriculture is a field based on facts. If you develop 1000 hectares, depending on how you grow, it will lead to a certain output. I am interested in the outcome of this forum. Whatever decision taken here will be needed for policy-making purposes,” the minister added. 

According to Minister Nuetah, the ministry is supporting the farmers in reducing the production costs they face and making prices affordable for the public.

“We provided support for all members of the value chain to make reasonable profits and to make the rice affordable for the consumers,” he said.

Meanwhile, minister Nuetah has disclosed that his ministry is revising the country’s national agriculture investment plan to guide agricultural development for the next five years. 

“When the investment plan is revised I will be engaging all of the donors that if they want to support our rice production they will have to go according to the development plan,” he said.

The minister said rice remains a critical commodity for Liberia and there is a need for more investment.

He also used the occasion to challenge the private sector to get the rice on the market for sale.

“We want the rice value chain to be able to establish stores to sell local rice on the market,” he said.

Representing the World Bank’s Task Team Leader, Kadir Osman Gyasi, the Bank’s Agriculture Specialist, Kelvin N. Doesieh, said the World Bank has acknowledged the government’s contributions to increasing domestic rice production.

“Both of the ministry’s projects supported an increase in rice yield, which has shown remarkable success. This was evidenced by the recent World Bank task team’s visit in Lofa and Nimba counties during its February 2024 implementation mission,” he said.

He mentioned that during the mission, pricing and market linkages were identified as key constraints. 

Doesieh, therefore, said the Bank sees the stakeholder dialogue forum as pivotal in improving the pricing and linkages issues. 

“Increasing rice production in rural communities and storing in warehouses will often not benefit the communities in terms of income generation and the country as a whole in revenues.  The Bank, therefore, encourages the full participation of all parties, especially the farmers, processors, and institutional buyers, to come with clear recommendations to resolve the market constraints for both the rice and cassava value chains,” he said.

The World Bank agriculture specialist said the Bank is committed to working with the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, to achieve food and nutrition security.

Giving an overview of the state of rice and cassava production in Liberia, the Crop Development Specialist of the Rural Economic Transformation Agriculture Project (RETRAP) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Moses Zolue, said that as part of the strategy to increase rice production, the Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging farmers to move into the lowland.

According to him, the lowlands have the great potential to increase the country’s rice production using technologies.

He said that the government and the private sector must work together more to increase domestic rice production.

Dr. Zolue said that the ministry’s intervention last year in rice and cassava mainly focused on seven counties.

The Ministry’s Crop Development Specialist said the farmers were supported by improved rice seed varieties, fertilizers, and equipment to increase yield.

He said that with the support provided to farmers, mainly in Bong, Lofa, and Nimba counties, they could increase their yield to an average of 3.6 hectares.

Zolue said that the government has passed several legislations to create an environment enabling the rice sector.

But some of the policies mentioned by him are not yet operationalized to improve rice production.

For instance, the government has yet to operationalize the Liberia Seed Development and Certification Agency Act of 2019, which is critical for improving the rice sector. 

Commenting on the cassava value chain, Zolue said several varieties of cassava cuttings were being multiplied and distributed to the farmers.

He said that providing farmers with planting materials and tools has caused the country to increase cassava production on the market.

Zolue also mentioned that the ministry’s grant program supported processors in transporting raw cassava tubers from farm gates. 

“Based on the intervention, we have caused farmers to progress from 5-16 metric tons of harvest for the market,” he said.

For his part, the MOA’s  RETRAP Project Operation Manager, Tarnue Jeke, said that the workshop findings will help address pricing challenges in the rice and cassava value chains.

“We are not going to place the recommendations from the workshop under the table. We will ensure that we derive a final solution to the issues of pricing and market linkages,” he said.

Jeke said that the Ministry has plans to focus on farm mechanization, which, according to him, will reduce labor costs in the sector and help manage the pricing issue.

He told this reporter that though the problem of pricing still exists, there is a need for the processors to build a better relationship with the producers to improve market linkages.

Meanwhile, the participants described the workshop as helpful and requested that the organizers arrange more of it in the future.

The participants believed the private sector would only produce more food for the market, provided the marketing constraints were adequately addressed.

Source : thenewdawnliberia