The cultivation of sustainable cocoa hinges on the provision of relevant inputs and labour, which may be costly to most farmers. Conventional financial services providers are unwilling to lend to cocoa farmers. The fund has therefore been set up to help farmers to be able to access credit at a low-interest rate to make the needed investments.
This intervention forms part of the implementation of the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme (LICSIP) co-funded by the European Union and implemented by Solidaridad. Over 3,000 farmers who are beneficiaries of LICSIP will have access to the fund for a period of up to 12 months to pay back. The fund will be managed by DIACONIA MDI, a lending agency in Liberia.
Speaking on behalf of the Regional Director of Solidaridad West Africa, Bossman Owusu, Head of Communications, thanked the European Union for supporting Solidaridad to invest in programmes that enhance the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.
He reiterated Solidaridad’s commitment to contributing its years of global expertise to help build the capacity of farmers, stimulate markets and address policy bottlenecks to enable cocoa to be produced and processed in ways that increase productivity and profitability while respecting the planet.
Laurent Delahousse, the Head of the European Union Delegation in Liberia who attended the launch said, the union favours giving loans to farmers instead of grants so they can make the right investment with it knowing that they would pay back.
He indicated that there is a huge competition in the cocoa market, thus farmers should prioritise producing sustainable cocoa of high value in order to be assured of a fair price and profitability.
Laurent also disclosed that a European chocolate producer has already expressed interest in sourcing Liberian cocoa due to its excellent quality and unique flavour. He said Liberia has the potential to become a leader in high-quality cocoa in the subregion.
The launch also witnessed the commissioning of 10 modern warehouses for the aggregation and storage of cocoa.
Dr John S. Flomo Jr. the Director-General of the Liberia Agriculture Regulatory Authority (LACRA) encouraged the users of the facilities to utilise them responsibly to ensure their longevity and assure the retention of the cocoa quality until they are exported,” he said.
He indicated that his agency was fully prepared to continue to support the production, processing and exporting of quality cocoa, considering its numerous benefits to the country.
“LACRA has worked with Solidaridad and the European Union to provide incentives for cocoa farmers to improve the productivity of the commodity given its potential benefit to Liberia’s economy”, he said.
Collaborating with Solidaridad over the last three years in the implementation of LICSIP has yielded several meaningful results. This includes the production of a cocoa quality control document and the launch of the Roadmap to a Sustainable Cocoa Sector in Liberia. The roadmap is a five-year plan that will guide the development of cocoa in Liberia, while the quality control document sets standards for producing cocoa.
He disclosed that the authority is prepared to waive the export licence of 5,000 dollars for entities that are ready and willing to export the quality cocoa that farmers produce.
The event brought together key partners and stakeholders including the European Union, the Ministry of Agriculture, local government authorities, and the Liberia Agriculture Regulatory Authority.
The Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme seeks to create a vibrant, competitive and profitable cocoa economy driven by farmer groups and private sector supply actors within a robust national regulatory framework.