LPP: Food Recommendation To The Nation September 12, 2021
The Liberian People’s Party (LPP) wonders if Liberia can reduce the perennial shortage of rice, Liberia’ staple food? Or alternatively, could Liberia reduce the demand on rice by enticing irregular cassava-eating-residents to consume cassava products as substitute for rice? Certainly, the demand for rice will reduce if residents of 1,112,000 in Bong County (333,000); Lofa, (276,000); Grand Cape Mount (127,000); Bomi (84,119); and Gbarpoplu (83,388) of the total population of 3,476,000 (National Public Housing 2008 Census) regularly eat products of cassava such as Fufu, gaygba, farinha, lafun, ayeke, agbelima, or flat bread (casaba) instead of rice.
Once again, the alleged shortage of rice in Liberia is on the airwaves, social media, and in the newspapers. One of Liberia’s newspapers, the Independent, on September 6, 2021, commenting on the alleged shortage of rice, under the title “Shortage or Hoarding,” stated that “…rice became a “political commodity on April 14, 1979 (protest demonstration),” which led to the killing of over 100 persons.
Narrating another rice story in a book called “Two Centuries of US Military Operations in Liberia,” the newspaper stated that, “…former rebel leader, now Senator to the Liberian Legislature, is widely believed to have fooled late President K. Doe with rice and subsequently captured and killed him (Doe). Continuing, the newspaper stated that former President Charles Taylor got angry and forced the price of rice down to USD $18.00 per 100lbs bag, after it was alleged that a Lebanese businessman, Mr. George Haddad created an artificial rice shortage, resulting into a higher price of rice.
The news on food security was not all negative. The short-lived good news came around 2009 when the late President of Libya, Col. Muammar Kaddafi provided resources, including mechanized farming equipment, to produce rice in Lofa County. Frustratingly to Liberians, government abandoned the land, employees, farming equipment, and the story of missing money spread. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf through her Presidential Press Secretary, Mr. Cyrus Badio, denied the story that the rice project management lost millions of dollars. Mr. Badio argued that trucks with rice were on the highways to Monrovia, refuting the money missing allegation. Liberians are still waiting for the rice from the Lofa rice project.
Can Liberia reduce rice shortage? LPP says yes and proposes a simple approach. First, the government should launch a campaign to encourage Liberians to eat what they grow and reduce reliance on imported food. Second, it can expand the program (i.e., feed students) of the World Food Program-WFP (Country Programme CP 200395 2013-2917) by using local food to feed patients at hospitals, prison inmates, participants at government sponsored seminars. For instance, leaders of Zorzor City, Lofa County, in collaboration with officials in Monrovia, could begin to provide cassava products as breakfast not only to students, but to government employees attending seminars, etc.
Predictably, the first approach might take long to get positive results. The second approach is achievable and should results into a significant consumption of local food. This is because students, patients, prison inmates, etc. will regularly eat cassava products, thereby, reducing the demand for rice. Subsequently, if the old adage that says “attitude is contagious” becomes a reality, other irregular cassava-eating residents will begin to consume more cassava products.
LPP is not abandoning the idea to increase rice production, however, Liberia’s records indicate that producing is a tall order. In the 70s’, Liberia established the Agricultural College to increase skilled manpower in agriculture. Later, President William R. Tolbert established the Agricultural Development Bank, but many farmers borrowed to grow cash crops. Yes, today, the Agricultural Bank does not exist anymore, but the Central Bank of Liberia has deposited USD $5M with local bank for private-capitalists to invest in food production. (See Page # 64 of the 2019 Central Bank of Liberia financial statements). Additionally, commercial banks have money for borrowers.
The interest rate of 2.5% for borrowing USD $5M might have been a high cost for private investors. Well, philanthropists donated USD $642M, from 2012/2013 through 2018/2019, as per Liberian Citizens’ Budget, for private investors. Farmers, including International Nongovernmental Agencies (INGOS) received the money to produce food, for example. (See J. Yanqui Zaza as per Daily Observer and Perspective websites). WFP, for instance, received USD $50M to carry out agricultural activities in River Gee, Maryland, Grand Geddeh, River Cess, etc. in 2018/2019 as per the Liberian Citizens’ Budget. There are limited documents to provide evidence that WFP produce food. Besides government documents, expenses per the schedule below, do not show that it used any of the $8.2B revenue in 2020, for instance, to invest in farm equipment or assist farmers to produce food? Moreover, critics accused WFP “…of bolstering the US economy by buying food items.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-54477214).
|FOOD ITEMS DISTRIBUTED||2.3B||2.1B|
|DISTRIBUTION AND SERVICES||0.8B||0.7B|
See page # 14 of the World Food programme 2020 annual report.
The Liberian People’s Party hopes that our government will encourage Liberians to eat what they produce and focus less on the activities of profiteers, our international partners, etc.
Liberian People’s Party (LPP)
Yanqui Zaza, Acting Chairman-0776-491-322
Throble K. Suah, Acting Secretary-0778-029-496