Liberia: Agriculture Minister Meets Cocoa Players Ahead of International Chocolate Trade Fair

Monrovia — Liberia's new Minister of Agriculture, Minister Jeanine M. Cooper, last Friday met major players of Liberia's cocoa and coffee sectors at a meet-and-greet event less than 24 hours before they traveled to the Netherlands to participate in the Chocoa Conference, the world's largest cocoa trade fair that brings together global cocoa buyers, investors and chocolate-making companies. The conference is from 19th to the 23rd of February.

Liberia's cocoa is organic and high-quality and has attracted interest from the global market. The country will have nine representatives at the event this year in Amsterdam--the world's chocolate capital--and will meet European buyers and other stakeholders in the global cocoa and coffee market. Their participation in the trade fair is being made possible by CBI, the Dutch agency that promotes imports from developing countries. The nine representatives are members of the National Cocoa Public-Private Partnership Platform (NC3P).

The dinner in Sinkor was the first time Minister Jeanine Cooper -- who was recently appointed to the post--was meeting with cocoa and coffee cooperative leaders and cocoa exporting companies, as a group in her new capacity. She discussed her vision for Liberia's cocoa sector with the NC3P members.

"I want to see Liberian cocoa as the premier brand in the world, not only the cocoa but the cocoa products, ethical productions, source traceability, environmental [sustainability]--all those things that we have but we don't have the label," said Ms. Cooper, whose appointment has been billed by many players of the agriculture sector as the best so far by His Excellency, President Dr. George Manneh Weah.

Minister Jeanine Cooper continued and said "Liberia will have a branded label for all of our agro-products and our label will soon carry with it the perception of an agro-product of superior quality. That's the direction that we're going."

One of the first tasks Ms. Cooper has is to deal with is a controversial LACRA Amendment seeking to grant the Liberian Agricultural Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA) the sole right to export cocoa, coffee and other cash crops. The bill is before the House's Committee on Agriculture and Judiciary.

"I have had a baptism-by-fire introduction to cocoa, coming from rice, rubber and oil palm sector," said Ms. Cooper, who is awaiting confirmation by the Liberian Senate. "Every bit of whatever influence I have in the coming days, months, years, will be behind what you are doing," she added and did not speak further on the matter.

She then entertained comments from the cocoa stakeholders. Clemenceau Urey of Atlantic Cocoa, a Liberian exporting firm said he was committed to added value to the commodity. Momolu Tolbert of the Liberia Cocoa Corporation, which has the country's single-largest farm in Lofa County, praised the Ms. Cooper for her dedication to the agriculture sector. There were similar comments from famers and heads of cooperatives, representatives of Grow Liberia--a firm to supports agribusinesses--as well as Conservation International.

Ms. Cooper concluded her remarks by reminding the Liberian delegation to the Chocoa Conference to showcase Liberia's potential in quality cocoa production.

"You are going with my full blessing and my full support," she said. "You are going as our representatives, so go with my full blessings."

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