Liberia is exploring innovative ways to accelerate rice farming and meet market demands as big producers in industrialized nations like India are restricting exports amidst high levies.
Agriculture Minister Jeanine Cooper said the National Rice Stabilization Task Force, which President George Weah Commissioned aims steady supply of rice in the local markets.
The country has set an ambitious national target to grow 75 percent of consumption in four cropping seasons.
It is a monumental step forward indicating an astounding 150 percent increase from current production levels, she said.
“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 told a gathering of farmers, investors and international partners at a symposium in Monrovia that government is improving weed and pest management, applying research and development for quality seeds while at the same time enhancing post-harvest processing capabilities at the village level, utilizing climate smart agriculture, facilitating access to markets and digital buying platforms.
The World Bank in its Fourth Edition of its annual Liberia Economic Update, pointing to increase in the price of imported rice as chief driver of food insecurity. The bank wants more investment in the production of the commodity locally to harness its potential to beat back poverty.
According to the report, growth in the agricultural sector accelerated to 5.9 percent in 2022 from 3.3 percent in 2021. Increased crop production, especially rice and cassava produced primarily for domestic consumption, was the main driver of growth in the agriculture sector.
“Despite the rebound in growth led by mining and a relatively good agricultural harvest during the year, food insecurity remains a major challenge for Liberia, with more than four-fifths of the population facing moderate or severe food insecurity,” said Mack Capehart Mulbah,then Acting World Bank Country Manager for Liberia. “The strong preference for rice among Liberians makes it integral to the country’s food security, poverty alleviation, and efforts to address vulnerabilities.”
The supply, demand, and price dynamics of rice are shaping food insecurity and poverty in Liberia. Rice makes up over 20 percent of total food consumption, accounts for nearly half of the calorie intake of adults, and accounts for about 15 percent of the overall spending of an average household in the country. Demographic trends and a strong preference for the commodity are the main drivers of demand.
Yet Liberia produces only a third of its rice needs due to several constraints, including limited access to technology, inefficient farming practices, low public and private investments, and a fragmented value chain, among other factors that have kept productivity low.