Supplying West Africa Traders (SWAT) and Cultivating New Frontier in Agriculture (CNFA) in collaboration with Liberia Agriculture Development Activity (LADA) Wednesday, June 20 signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to boost production and distribution of local rice and empower farmers in support of government’s pro-poor agenda.
CNFA/LADA is under the United States Government’s feed the future initiative with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The goal of LADA is to increase incomes of smallholder farmers (SHFs) through increasing private sector investment in the Liberia’s agribusiness sector.
The PPP agreement with SWAT supports component II of the CNFA/LADA program which calls for market facilitation and policy advocacy for Liberian farmers and actors along LADA’s four supply chains (rice, cassava, vegetables and aquaculture).
SWAT, one of the importers of rice in the country in consultation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry continues conversation with CNFA/LADA that led to the conclusion of the PPP agreement.
The agreement, according to the two institutions, aims to boost distribution of quality locally grown rice, while empowering rice farmers to increase production.
The partnership seeks to achieve an annual good quality milled rice production of roughly 15,000 metric tons in Liberia, which would help reduce imports by 30 percent at end of 2020.
Under the agreement, SWAT will support development of rice processing capacity by providing technical advice to local processors, purchasing local quality rice that meets established specifications and eventually investing in local processing.
The company will consider provision of auxiliary services such as warehousing, transportation and equipment lease to rice sector actors, among others.
On the other hand, CNFA/LADA will support procurement of rice processing mills for local entrepreneurs to establish or expand private sector agro-enterprises, promote full-time operation of mills procured with LADA support.
SWAT’s Chief Executive Officer, George N. Nehme, speaking following the signing ceremony expressed gratitude to President George Weah for challenging importers to look into investing in local production and holding consultations with the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, and Agriculture, including technicians from there who remain committed to supporting this initiative.
Nehme also thanked USAID-Liberia and CNFA/LADA team for continuing to build the capacity of local farmers to produce more rice for the Liberian market.
“We are happy about this agreement because it is a new beginning to increase rice production working together with the farmers as partners. My team at SWAT has been supporting this process over the last several months,” he said.
He also thanked John Bestman, chairman of the Liberia Rice Importers Association for his support in making the event come to light and other partners as well.
For his part, the chief of party of LADA, Willem Van Campen reminded the participants that rice is the staple food of Liberia, with a population of approximately 5million.
“Huge quantities of about 400,000 metric tons of rice are imported every year. This represents more 50% of the total consumption of a total value of about US$200million per year. The situation is not only a question of food security and food sovereignty. It is also an important issue for the use of foreign exchange and for the overall Liberian economy,” he said.
He pledged the unflinching support of CNFA/LADA to ensure the partnership succeeds and boost the agriculture sector of the country. The signing ceremony was witnessed by officials of the Ministries of Commerce, Finance and Agriculture as well as other partners. Agriculture Minister Mogana Flomo pledged the commitment of the ministry in making sure the partnership succeeds. \
--Editing by Jonathan Browne