The Chief Executive Officer of Supplying West Africa Traders (SWAT), George N. Nehmeon Wednesday signed a Public private partnership(PPP) agreement with Cultivating New Frontier in Agriculture (CNFA)/Liberia Agriculture Development Activity (LADA) to support the production and distribution of local rice. This agreement will also help empower Liberian Rice Farmers in support of the government pro-poor agenda.
By this, farmers will supply locally produced rice to importers who will sell on the marker as well as sell directly to the public for consumption. The PPP agreement will help, to some level, ease the burden on rice importation.
Liberia imports over huge consignment of rice annually; a situation which affects its meager resources. Huge quantities of about 400,000 metric tons of rice are imported every year. This represents more than 50% of the total consumption of a total value of about US$200million per year.
SWAT, the largest rice importer has pledged his company’s full commitment to supporting the Liberian Government achieve its pro-poor agenda.
SWAT started operations in 2009 in Liberia and was given the rights to import rice in the country.
Speaking following the signing ceremony, Nehme expressed gratitude to President George Weah for challenging importers to look into investing in local production and for consultation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture and technicians of those two institutions who remain committed to supporting this initiative.
Already, SWAT is working with some local farmers in Lofa and Nimba counties and intends to expand its network.
Nehme also thanked the USAID Mission and CNFA/LADA team for continuing to build the capacity of the 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 to make the event come to light and other partners as well.
“Over the years we have had our share of ups and downs, but we have always worked with the Ministry of Commerce to make sure we prevented shortages or price hikes we could control. We believe in Liberia and the potential to grow a business in Liberia. This is why we have worked hard to attract investors in our company to help grow our company.
“Today our investment covers two large warehouses, one with the capacity of 90,000 metric tons while the other with the capacity of 68,000 metric tons. Today, we have some 400 employees working for us in various capacities and many more working as brokers and agents in the counties,” he said.
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.
“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 Ministry of Commerce, Finance and Agriculture Ministries as well as other partners.
Agriculture Minister MoganaFlomo pledged the commitment of the ministry in making sure the partnership succeeds.
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 income of smallholder farmers (SHFs) through increasing private sector investment in the Liberian 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 which led to the conclusion of the PPP agreement.
The agreement according to the two institutions aims to achieve the boosting and distribution of quality locally grown rice while empowering rice farmers to grow more.
The agreement wants support Liberia to produce roughly 15,000metric tons good quality milled rice per year. To reduce rice imports to below 30% by the end of 2020.
The agreement which expires on December 31, 2020 calls for SWAT to support the development of rice processing capacity by providing technical advice to local rice processors, by purchasing local quality rice that meet established specifications and eventually investing in local processing.
SWAT will consider provision of auxiliary services such as warehousing, transportation and equipment lease to rice sector actors, will consider forward contracting with local processors as a mean to guarantee its provision of good quality locally produced rice and to facilitate processors’ business operations.
The company agrees that purchases from selected rice processors will be based on transparent quality and price negotiation where both business partners openly explain their opportunities and limitations.
CNFA/LADA shall support procurement of rice processing mills to be utilized by local entrepreneurs to establish or expand private sector agro-enterprises, promote the full-time operation of mills procured with LADA support.
The party of the second part shall provide management oversight as needed to ensure mill operations are business and profit-oriented. CNFA/LADA shall facilitate and support the creation of market linkages between the processors and potential off takers, including the party of the first part. CNFA/LADA shall support outreach of millers and producers. These contacts will aim at increasing the quality and or quantities of rice produced and milled for sale to SWAT or others.
Others are: CNFA/LADA will solicit support from appropriate participants including selected donor projects and the Ministry of Agriculture among other key issues as agreed by the two.