Six major cassava processors including Global Agro, Bravo Sisters, FALAMA INC, Liberia Business Incubator, Destiny Women, and Logan and Logan INC, have delivered a consignment of approximately 80 metric tons of processed cassava products to the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) for distribution to Liberia’s venerable communities.
It can be recalled that the MOA, through its Smallholder Transformation Agriculture Project (STAP-P) Project in August 28, 2020, awarded contracts to several potential agribusinesses from the cassava and rice sectors as part of the Ministry’s COVID-19 emergency response initiative that seeks to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on agriculture and food security with support from the World Bank.
Considering that the virus could have adverse effects on the economy, particularly on the vulnerable population, the MOA in April of this year developed a COVID-19 food security livelihood and nutrition plan. The plan seeks to support farmers and to create food stocks.
According to Joseph Morris, President of the National Cassava Sector Coordinating Committee (NCSCC) the recent delivery of cassava products represents the second phase of the exercise.
He said according to the contract, they are to produce a total of 1,050 metric tons of various cassava products.
Morris said that they are purchasing the raw cassava tubers from Liberian farmers to process into other finished products which, according to him, is empowering more smallholder cassava producers to earn more money to expand production.
“This contract (US$1.8 million) was awarded to six cassava processors to produce 1,050 metric tons (42,000 bags of 25kg) of cassava products to the government through the MOA. We are here today for the second phase of the delivery, where we are delivering a little more than 3,000 25 kg bags to the GSA through the MOA as part of the delivery. The first time we delivered about 30 metric tons. The idea of this contract is to reach out to the smallholder farmers in the villages that are involved in production and processing as well as marketing,” he explained.
According to Morris, the processors are strategically positioned in their counties of operation, Nimba, Margibi, Montserrado and Bomi, Sinoe, and Montserrado, working with the out-growers and other cassava producers to purchase the raw cassava tubers and have it processed for supply to the Government.
“All these areas are affected by this exercise, either through the purchase of fresh cassava or secondary gari production or depar production. We are also purchasing some of the products from places in Lofa County.
“I can tell you that with the capacity that we have reached, local agribusinesses can now be credited for delivery of products based on special arrangement,” he added.
Meanwhile, the cassava sector coordinator noted some challenges that are confronting the production of purchasing of cassava in the country.
“It is worth nothing that there are issues that when we go through these processes such the cost of production and sale are factors that are affecting the entire program. When you travel to some counties there are different prices for fresh cassava and the processed gari and these prices must work within the prices of these products from the MOA,” he explained.
According to him, these challenges are something that his entity is working with the Government to solve.
He stressed the need for more support to farmers to enable them to mechanize which, if realized, will reduce production constraints to affect the prices of cassava products.
“These are some of the things that we are working on which trickle down to how these products are produced. If the production cost for the hectares of cassava is high we don’t expect to sell as low as other areas that the production is low. We need to mechanize so that we can have standardize price schedules for the production of these groups at uniform price,” he said.
Receiving the delivery on the compound of the General Services Agency (GSA), the director of the Agency, Mary T. Broh, who is also the National Coordinator of COVID-19 Response, said that she was pleased with the Ministry of Agriculture for making sure that local produce is purchased and provided to the Government to distribute to vulnerable people.
“We are thankful to the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Madam Jeanine M. Cooper, for ensuring that we have a local content for this entire food distribution initiative by the Government. We are already delivering the food items to people who are desperately in need to enable them to overcome the effects of the pandemic,” she said.