Liberia and Japan have signed US$8.5 million (690 million Japanese Yen) Food Aid Agreement. The agreement is aimed at boosting food security through the production of rice in five of the country's 15 counties: Lofa, Bong, Gbarpolu, Nimba and Grand Gedeh.
Speaking at the ceremony, Japanese Ambassador to Liberia, Naoto Nikai said the signing of the agreement came as a result of President Johnson-Sirleaf's recent visit to Japan.
The Japanese envoy said the 690 million Japanese Yen agreement is intended to increase rice production in Liberia based on a request from the Government of Liberia sometime ago. He said Japan was proud to respond to such a request.
Ambassador Nikai explained that food security is important for Liberia because the country produced only 40 percent of its staple food, thus relying hugely on the importation of over 60 percent of food importation.
The Japanese envoy observed that Liberia is blessed with fertile soil for the production of sufficient food that would address the needs of the country.
He narrated that the Japanese Government has made strategic interventions in food security since 2003 by providing food aid to Liberia.
Ambassador Nikai expressed the hope that government will strengthen the implementation of the grant and proceed from the sale of rice production will be used to grow more rice in Liberia.
For his part, Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan lauded the people of Japan for such an agreement. He said Liberia will always be grateful to Japan because they have contributed so much to Liberia.
Commending the Japanese Government, Agriculture Minister Dr. Florence Chenoweth said no other program has impacted the increase in rice production than the program from Japan.
Minister Chenoweth recalled that since 2010 more than 620,000 school-going children from across the country eat locally produced rice.
She said Liberia has done well to increase local production by 40 percent and reduced importation by 60 percent. She indicated that since 2006, the country has imported 100 percent, but through the help of the international partners of which Japan is of no exclusion; it has contributed immensely to Liberia's growth.