Liberia: Senate Wants Cocoa and Coffee Regulations Reviewed

The Senate has mandated authorities of the Liberia Agriculture Commodities Regulatory Agency (LACRA) to review the controversial cocoa and coffee regulations governing the sector before its implementation.

The senate took the decision on Thursday, August 8, 2019, when LACRA director general, Dr. John S. Flomo, appeared before that august body to clarify issues surrounding the regulations.

Cocoa exporters, smallholder farmers and development partners, had earlier proposed negotiations with LACRA to amend some of the provisions of the controversial policy. But the LACRA authorities previously insisted that the regulations would take immediate effect in August 2019, pending the conclusion of a dialogue.

Flomo told the Senate plenary that although LACRA deems it necessary to carry out the cocoa policy, there are already some changes being made in the existing regulations as a result of consultation with stakeholders.

Local exporters are advocating for amendment in several requirements, including firms obtaining export license fee of US$10,000; US$50 per metric ton royalty fee; and US$25,000 as bank balance for applying for export license.

"Exporters believed that the bench mark set for company to obtain license is high, and meant to keep us out of business," Sheikh A. Turay, president of the Liberia National Cocoa Exporters Association (LINACEA) told the Daily Observer via mobile phone.

However, Dr. Flomo informed the senators that the policy is not intended to marginalize Liberian businesses, but to ensure standard in the cocoa sector.

"We have decided to raise the bar for cocoa export, taking into consideration policies in other countries in the sub region. A cocoa exporting company must be a registered business, tax payer and able to meet with our entity's requirements on warehousing," he informed the Senate plenary.

Flomo said that the LACRA's regulations are not new ones, but something that originated from the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC), a former regulatory authority for the sector.

Karley Armah, managing director of the Liberia Agriculture Asset Development Company, informed the Daily Observer that several local cocoa exporters might not be able to renew their export license with LACRA, if reduction in the fee is not considered.

"We are looking forward to negotiations as most of our licenses expire very soon," Armah said, adding that there is a need that LACRA consider seriously changing the regulations to enable smallholders farmers benefit from the sector.

"This is not just about exporters making profits, but poor smallholder farmers improving their lives through the sale of their produce. The increased in license fees and others will definitely have a trickle down effect on the farmers," he said.

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