Monrovia — The Netherlands Trust Fund Program (NTF IV) has ended a one-day stakeholders' workshop on Liberia's cocoa sector.
The workshop was held on Wednesday, October 10, at the Bella Casa Hotel in Monrovia.
Speaking at the workshop, the Advisor for Corporate Social Responsibility and Gender of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, Lisanne Van Beek, said the workshop is to gather industry and policymakers' inputs on the current needs and opportunities for the Liberian cocoa sector.
She said the initiative is one of four projects under the NTF IV's latest series of collaborations between the center for the Promotion of imports from developing countries (CBI) and the International Trade Center (ITC).
Beek added that the purpose of the NTF IV is to increase the competitiveness of producers and exporters in selected cocoa sectors within priority developing countries.
"In collaboration with countries within the Mano River Region and base on the needs expressed by the beneficiary and the National Priorities for Economic Development, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CBI and ITC have identified the cocoa and cocoa derivatives value chain to be revitalized as key to enhance economic livelihood regarding countries' potential and cocoa international demand," she said.
She noted that the workshop will also help improve the livelihood of rural household cocoa farmers through the provision of increased share of wealth along the cocoa value chain in Liberia.
Also speaking, the Deputy Minister for Commerce and Trade Services at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, A.E. Nyema Wisner, said there is a need to transform the Liberian Cocoa from subsistence crop to a carefully planned, market engine of equitable growth and value distribution.
Wisner added that the 14-year civil conflict affected the cocoa sector and has since been dormant resulting in most of the cocoa farmers being the poorest and food insecure population in the country.
"The war resulted in widespread destruction or abandonment of cocoa farms as well as limited processing infrastructure that existed in the country. Cocoa output that stood at 10,000 tons per year in the 1970's has dropped nearly zero levels during the conflict."
He continued: "Currently, the cocoa sector is at an early stage of recovery and growth is starting to pick up. Sadly, cocoa farmers are some of the poorest and most food insecure populations in Liberia."
For his part, the Program Associate of Solidaridad, Abdulai Kefi Conteh said Solidaridad is working with cocoa farmers to establish and operate centers for cocoa development in the country.
Conteh also added that the objective of Solidaridad is to conduct farmers' field school on cocoa best practices including agronomy, life skills and business management.
"If you look at Ghana, Ivory Coast cocoas, we are producing less than 30 percent of what they are producing, so there is a way we can target Liberia's cocoa to be able to attract international buyers out there," Conteh noted.