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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Speech: Rice Isn’t Just a Staple Food—It’s A Way of Life-Minister Jeanine Cooper

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The crux of our innovation lies in optimizing existing processes, empowering farmers and businesses to produce more efficiently, economically, and at a greater scale. The necessary technologies are at our disposal; it’s time to put them to work.

President George Manneh Weah’s establishment of the National Rice Stabilization Task Force reflects our commitment to ensuring a steady supply of rice in our markets. S

etting an ambitious national target to grow 75 percent of our consumption in four cropping seasons is a monumental step forward—an astounding 150 percent increase from current production levels.

Recognizing the challenges faced by smallholders, we’re addressing issues of limited capital and labor through targeted interventions.

Improving weed and pest management, applying research and development for quality seeds, enhancing post-harvest processing capabilities at the village level, utilizing climate smart agriculture, facilitating access to markets and digital buying platforms are crucial steps towards success.

Moreover, initiatives to bolster food and nutrition security, as well as access to water and energy at the community level, are underway.

Collaborating with MSMEs across the value chain, we’re ensuring the availability of essential resources—from seeds and tools to transportation and marketing—to serve urban consumers.

The Liberia Agricultural Commercialization Fund is playing a pivotal role in financing innovations that strengthen food markets and enable rice processors to expand their operations.

Simultaneously, we’re actively building our knowledge base and creating business profiles to attract private investments. The global food security crisis necessitates that we tap into Liberia’s legendary resilience and creativity.

Our commitment is resolute: we are determined to get rice right, and with collective effort, we will.

As we embark on this transformative journey, we invite stakeholders from every corner of the rice sector to join us.

Together, we will not only secure Liberia’s food future but also set a shining example for sustainable agricultural practices across the continent.

Liberia’s rice sector holds the promise of prosperity, self-sufficiency, and resilience.

The time to realize this vision is now. Let us work hand in hand towards Getting Rice Right

Minister Cooper, at a two days national symposium at the Farmington Hotel, near the Roberts International Airport, Liberia has embarked on a significant milestone in Liberia’s agricultural journey – the Liberia Rice Symposium.

The event is a pivotal component of national rice transformation process, representing a concerted effort to forge innovative pathways within our rice sector.

Today marked the dynamic inauguration of the Liberia National Rice Symposium, a pivotal event dedicated to revolutionizing the domestic rice industry of the Country. The two-day symposium, themed “Getting Rice Right,” drew together delegates and panelists representing government, development partners, NGOs, private sector entities, and rice industry value chain.

The overarching objective of this symposium is to identify and implement major policy and strategic actions that will propel Liberia towards self-sufficiency in rice production.

Through scientific and innovative value chain approaches, we aim to harness emerging opportunities and foster an inclusive rice value chain led by the private sector.

As we convene under the banner of “Getting Rice Right”, we recognize the imperative for a holistic approach, transcending conventional methods.

We must explore sustainable value chain models, mobilize stakeholders, and align our efforts with overall national policy directions.

The symposium will be a dynamic platform for critical discussions on various facets of the rice sector. We will examine features of Liberia’s rice ecosystem with an eye to optimize private sector involvement and increase private investments in rice production.

It is essential that we address the ‘how’ in relation to policy implementation and attracting investments.

Specifically, we aim to achieve the following outcomes include; profile the inherent potential along each link of the rice value chain, explore and document synergies between national and local government, development actors and the private sector, identify and document areas of comparative advantage for rice development in different regions of the country, highlight and document the roles and commitments of key stakeholders in crucial areas, and provide the basis for the development of an Action Plan for Rice Production in Liberia.

I eagerly anticipate the wealth of insights and innovative solutions that each of you will bring to the table.

Speaking on behalf of the Government of Liberia, Economic Advisor to the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, Mr. Charles Bright, called the Symposium a historic event.  “Indeed, this Symposium is the first of its kind in Liberia, he said.

It indicates the high commitment our administration places on bringing voices together, seeking innovative ways and implementing a new pathway for Getting Rice Right; not only a perfect theme of this Symposium, but a catchy slogan to mobilize and encourage all hands on deck to ensure the rice we eat, must be the rice we grow, a rice that will be affordable and a rice of superior quality with high nutrients.

The symposium’s first session, “Setting the Stage,” provided a comprehensive background of the rice industry, its vision, and the rationale behind this momentous gathering. Minister Jeanine Cooper presented the documentary, “Getting Rice Right,” showcasing Liberia’s rice history, from its origins to its envisioned future. She called the Symposium the first step. “The Symposium is an important step for us.

It’s the first time that we’re putting our rice cards on the table and saying for ourselves man, because we’re the ones we have to go.

We are talking about rice and we intend to get rice right. We know we have the potential.

We know we have the capacity. So these are the things that the symposium is meant to bring,” she said. The session culminated in an inclusive one-hour discussion on the Government of Liberia’s policy shifts towards domestic rice production, featuring a distinguished panel of experts.


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