President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is said to be rallying her ministers and lawmakers to make into law Liberia's Small Business Empowerment Act--which requires the government to procure at least 25% of goods and services locally -- at the opening of this year's Micro Small & Medium Enterprise (MSME) Conference held at Monrovia City Hall.
USAID FED Chief of Party, Agnes Luz, shows the President cassava products at the MSME Conference 2014
If made law, thousands of Liberian rice farmers, traders and processors stand to benefit. Every year, the Government of Liberia purchases 70,000 bags--or 3,500 metric tons--of paddy rice for government employees.
The USAID Food and Enterprise Development (FED) Program supports rice farmers and processors who play a critical role in producing and processing increasing rice volumes to meet the government's requirement.
"The Small Business Empowerment plan will set aside 25% of all government procurement for Liberian companies," Axel Addy, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, explained in the opening ceremony. "We will purchase locally grown rice for the employee's Christmas package."
The Government of Liberia provides two 50kg bags of rice for every employee, once in July and again in December. This year's MSME Conference spotlights agriculture and agribusiness, which contributes an estimated 60% to the nation's GDP, and is the sector with the most jobs.
"Liberia is blessed with water and soil. This is a call to action for Liberians to produce and process agriculture products for local consumption and export," President Sirleaf said. Let's take the rice from the swamp to the market, and the cassava from the root to the processed product."
"Liberian farms are entrepreneurs with a strong potential to go beyond a subsistence level. Under the Feed the Future initiative, the US government is helping to develop not just farmers but a better business climate, agro input suppliers, processors, traders, cold chain and warehousing and other critical players in the value chains," said US Ambassador Deborah Malac in her opening remarks.
"Agriculture is an untapped opportunity, and Liberia has all the natural resources to give its farmers a competitive advantage," Minister Addy said.