... Though sector remains underfunded
President George M. Weah in his third annual address to the 54th Legislature on Monday, Jan 27, 2020 described agriculture as critical to the transformation of the country and, as such, he said that the sector remains a major pillar of Liberia's development agenda.
He said that the country cannot realize full economic transformation without a vibrant agriculture program.
This is the second time the President has spoken about his commitment to transform the country's agriculture sector in his annual message, but the sector still remains underfunded, except for money that comes from external sources.
Liberia as a country is yet to align with the Malabo Declaration for Food and Nutrition Security that mandates African governments to allot not less than 10% annually for agriculture in their respective national budgets, something stakeholders in agriculture have constantly called on the Government to adhere to.
In his address, President Weah stated that while he improves roads network, the next step by his administration is to reorganize the agriculture sector.
"With the program to connect the various communities and counties through quality paved road networks now fully mobilized, funded and underway, the next big push by my administration this year will be to reorganize the agriculture sector and put it at the front burner of our national development initiatives," he said.
He added that the greater investment in the sector will not only guarantee food security, but will also provide jobs and a source of livelihood for thousands of families across Liberia.
The President further said that the success of his administration to transform agriculture depends on finding a qualified and passionate person to manage the sector.
"That is why my vetting and selecting of a new agriculture minister was comprehensive and thorough. I believe we have found the right person to lead this charge", the President said.
He said that the agriculture minister-designate is a woman whose track record, competence and dedication match his vision for agricultural transformation.
"I hope that you will share my view, and grant her speedy confirmation so that she can urgently embark upon the great task that is before her. If she cannot do it, then I do not know who else we will find to do it," he said, urging lawmakers to confirm Madam Cooper.
Agriculture minister-designate, Madam Jeanine Cooper, was nominated two weeks ago by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate to replace former minister Mogana Flomo who was relieved off his position since June 2019.
When confirmed, the new minister-designate, who has served as founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fabrar, Liberia's biggest rice processing company, will become the second Minister of Agriculture in the Weah's Administration.
The President further told his audience that over the coming months, the Government intends to harness both local and international support and resources to lead the new agriculture drive, adding that it shall focus on the entire value chain.
"We will exert every effort to subsidize the works of more farmers and local cooperatives with the objective of enhancing productivity," he said.
According to him, under his administration the country will still focus on rice production, however he stated that he is also thinking on working with authorities in the sector and international counterparts to look at ways to fully cultivate other cash crops, such as cocoa and coffee.
Amid his numerous promises to revive agriculture, the President said that Liberia has invested more in to the sector but the returns were regrettable.
"Over the years, millions of dollars were put into agriculture with very little result to show," he said.