Monrovia — Cocoa farmers in Liberia have expressed their unhappiness with new policies being introduced by the Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulation Authority (LACRA), stating it has some unfair regulations that would hamper small actors in the sector.
LACRA, amongst other things, would now set the prices for buying cocoa and limit the buying and export of cocoa to only licensed merchants.
Some of the farmers expressed dismay over plans by LACRA to impose royalty of US$50 per ton on the export of cocoa, stating that it would impose burden on farmers.
The farmers also expressed concern over the failure of LACRA to ensure that the exporters buy the cocoa beans from them for fair prices.
"The farmers' cooperative accusing them (LACRA) because of the prices [royalty] they are giving the exporters are also given to us. At times, I produce 120 metric tons to sell to the exporters but there is no fair commission and LACRA doesn't care why the exporters does not give cooperatives good commission," said Tetejay Sesay, a Cocoa Farmer from Lofa County.
The farmers called for more consultation and cooperation between farmers' cooperatives and LACRA to ensure a plain leveled field for actors in the sector.
The consultative forum which was held under the auspices of the U.K Embassy brought together major stakeholders in the cocoa sector.
The forum comes at a time when the Government of Liberia has come under criticism for opting to monopolize export of Liberia's cocoa.
The cocoa sector, according to reports, has over 30,000 smallholder cocoa farmers and if monopolized, it will destroy the investments made in the sector over the last decade by smallholders, cooperatives, the Government of Liberia and the international donor communities.
FrontPageAfrica gathered that the Liberian government has decided to grant export monopoly to Aya Group which is a part of Sidani Enterprises (Lebanese) to export cocoa. The same group that has a lot of road contracts. Everyone must sell to them and they will control the foreign exchange coming in.
This mean, all local producers would sell to the Lebanese at a price they [the Lebanese] would determine and then export. In so doing, Aya Group, which is owned by Bassam Sidani and his son, Hassan Sidani, would control the foreign exchange earned from the export of cocoa.
In Ghana, only the Government's Ghana Cocoa Board exports, thus they control foreign exchange derived from export earnings. Cocoa is a major contributor to Ghana's economy.
Ghana generates about US$2 billion in foreign exchange annually through the export of cocoa. The cash crop is a major contributor to Ghana's revenue and GDP.