A candid lamentation by one agriculture minister during the observance of World Food Day here several decades ago that Liberia spends US$11 million annually to import onions still reverberates as we marked another World Food Day yesterday.
It is a pity that Liberians do not produce enough to eat, and considering the abundance of fertile soil and favorable weather, shamelessly depend on countries in faraway Asia for their staple--rice.
This dependence forces Liberians to measure their monthly pay in terms of the cost of a 100lb bag of rice. How long will this continue--expecting people of faraway lands to produce the food which almost every household yearn to east daily?
However, what Liberians fail to realize is: we must pay dearly for this one-sided trade because we produce nothing Asian nations demand for survival The bottom line is we will continue to cry hardship and plummeting of the Liberian dollar because we must buy the greenback that is used to purchase our needs on the world market.
Therefore, cognizant of the alarming illiteracy rate in our country, we urge the ministries of information, agriculture and commerce and industry to fulfill their challenge in explaining these hard economic factors to ordinary Liberians so that they may wake up to these current realities.
We also observe with pity how other food crops including eddoes, sweet potatoes, yam, cassava, onions, maize, millet, sorghum, plantains and bananas are sparingly grown in this country, while processing plants are lacking for seasonal fruits like plum, oranges, grape fruits, pineapples and papayas that become rotten fast after they are ripened.
With the grim food situation in the country, we believe government must prioritize mechanized cultivation of our staple. Unsuccessful attempts to do so by previous governments must embolden the resolve of the present government to engage in this worthy initiative especially after a prominent official recently admitted: "We import almost everything we consume." Dangerous for any nation.
Why make the importation of our national staple--rice--a strict priority as being experienced these days instead of prioritizing mechanized farming that could produce rice in abundance as well as help conserve meager national financial resources?
We believe Liberian authorities must investment in agriculture, especially rice production to stop the flight of hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase rice that can abundantly grow on this fertile soil of ours.
We must muster the courage to woo few development partners to invest in mechanized rice farming instead of growing vast rubber or oil palm plantations or extracting forest resources and others that are non-renewable.
There is every need to take heed because who knows huge population growth in Asian countries or environmental disasters could be catastrophic for the bellies of most Liberians relying rice imported for daily food.
Aside from rice cultivation, small farmers must have enthusiasm to grow supplementary edibles like cassava, yam, eddoes and potatoes which when served with gravy can substitute bread and tea for breakfast on any day. These foods, which other Africans eat as staple, can even substitute rice if prepared with proper ingredients.
Our population is exploding and many youths migrating to urban areas only to sell second-hand goods have abandoned rural communities with old folks who are now too feeble to toil on backbreaking subsistence rice fields.
And it is noteworthy for urban dwellers to know about the ban on rice and other foodstuffs from Liberia to cross into neighboring Guinea and vice versa. The reason is simple: not to create undue imbalance in food security on either side where there is not even enough food for inhabitants.
We are concerned that Liberia seldom reports progress on food security on World Food Day that is partly meant to gauze the worldwide food situation and how it can be tackled.
Therefore, it was heartening on the eve of World Food Program when Ghana was commended for "tremendous efforts in attaining the MDG one in food security though challenges remain that must be urgently addressed."
Ghana is among 62 out of the 128 countries monitored by the FAO to have reached the Millennium Development Goal of cutting by half the number of hungry people from 1990 levels, showing the target was achievable by 2015.
WFP said Ghana is producing adequate food for its people but wondered whether the poor really get access to quality nutritious food.
WFP Director Pippa Bradford cited the school feeding program and asked the government to strengthen the decentralization of production to provide quality meals for the children.
We have no choice but to rethink the Liberian scenario.