BY: Dempster N. Harris & Louella Urey (Contact: 0770556581)
The Director of the Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA), Dr. John S. Flomo has revealed that his entity is opening up farms across the country to boost agriculture productivity and to absorb more people in the labor force. LACRA which replaces the defunct Liberian Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) is tasked with regulating the agriculture sector and designing novel policies that will stimulate the sector; providing attractive and livable wage for farmers who are by far being overlooked.
Flomo disclosed that LACRA has begun reactivating several farms in the counties. “We have rehabilitated the Cacao farm in Grand Bassa and several people who did not have job are now employed”, said Flomo.
The LACRA boss revealed that rehabilitation of the Palm plantation in Bong County is currently being undertaken and when completed will employ several jobless Liberians. “As you know Lofa is considered the breadbasket of Liberia, we are working to get the county to its prewar agriculture glory and fame” said Flomo. Flomo opined that they are working on the rehabilitating of several farms in Lofa County.
He noted that the lack of storage facilities has been one of the bottlenecks adversely affecting farmers in the country. “We have started to mitigate this problem by rehabilitating our warehouses throughout the country as a means of providing access to the proper storage of agricultural produce” disclosed Flomo. He insinuated that the proper storage of agricultural produce will ensure that farmers will have the most when their products leave for the world market.
The Director said that one of the main focuses of his entity is ensuring the production of high and abundant yields which will serve both domestic and oversea markets. We are working with farmers and other government institutions to develop favorable policies that will make the sector competitive in the region.
LACRA is currently working with stakeholders and farmers in the sector. Our reporter said LACRA under the aegis of Flomo, LACRA is working hard to beef up the country’s agriculture sector evidence of the high yield of cacao that is now on the Liberian market. Unlike before, when Cacoa was barely found on the market, and the beans were shipped from farm to the world market, the local market is inundated with home grown grounded cacao which sells for LRD $ 150 for cup.
While Cocoa is famous for its role in chocolate production, many Liberians are rediscovering the awesome medicinal benefit of raw Cacao powder. Cacoa powder is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter.
Cacoa is rich in polyphenols, which have significant health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol levels. However, processing cacoa into chocolate or other products can substantially decrease the polyphenol content.
Dr. Flomo disclosed that owing to the concerted work of his entity and other line ministries, the cacoa sector is now contributing immensely to income generation, especially for local farmers. He said LACRA is looking at increasing the production of cacoa within the country.
The Director said that LACRA is working exceedingly hard with various producers to enable them have access to the right market so as to generate the necessary monetary value for their products. He said several capacity building trainings are ongoing and LACRA intends to scale these training in earnest. However, he lamented the limited budgetary support to his institution, but noted that he is optimistic that the government and national legislature will increase LACRA budget in the next budgetary year. “The government has identified agriculture as one of the mainstays of the economy and I am confident they will increase our budget so that we meet our target of building the capacity while providing technical staff to work with our farmers” he exclaims.
He noted that LACRA has a big shoe to fill given the fact that it is taken over from the once revered Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) which was one of the entities that was employing Liberians on a massive scale. “However, I can assure the Liberian people that we are getting back to that point again” he said.
Flomo said LACRA is looking at opening new farms all across the country as the value of natural resources such as iron ore, and crop like rubber dwindle on the world market. “The best way to offset the loss of income coming from these key exports is to revitalize the agriculture sector” said Flomo.
The Director said LACRA is working with multilateral agriculture companies such as Sime Darby, Golden Veroleum, MOWAH and other plantations to ensure that they carry on their operation but also not disturb our huge biodiversity or stifle small indigenous farmers.