Minister Promises To Revamp Agriculture Sector -Proposes Agriculture Enterprise Development Bank

MONROVIA: With more being expected for the agriculture sector to play a more robust role in rejigging the economy, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. J. Alexander Nuetah has outlined several efforts, including the establishment of the Agriculture Enterprise Development Bank, aimed at making agriculture a core component of the ARREST agenda to promote national economic development and prosperity of the citizens.

Speaking during his maiden press briefing at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism since his appointment as Minister, Dr. Neutah listed his 7 point strategic agenda that will set the basis for the sector to play its critical role and enhance all resources within its disposal as well as forging partnership that will be rewarding to the country, ensuring that there will be massive agricultural production in various categories.

Listing the priority areas not in particular order, Nuetah called for support for agribusiness enterprise development by strengthening access to finance for agriculture value-chain development through establishment of the Agriculture Enterprise Development Bank (AEDB), strengthening agriculture extension advisory service delivery system to ensure farmers’s access to improved agriculture technology and new innovations and to develop a national strategy for agriculture development based on regional comparative advantage that supports a one-crop or major agriculture – activity per county.

Others are, according to the Minister, to strengthen the capacities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Central Agricultural Research Institute(CARI) and all agriculture-related training institutions to appropriately administer the sector, and conduct research to support agricultural development, support and promote local value addition and industrialization of the rubber sector to improve smallholder rubber farmers income through increased market access and fair prices for their products, Promote agricultural mechanization and improve farmers’ access to improved production technologies and standardize agricultural commodity market and institutionalize the use of appropriate unites of Measurement in the Commercialization of agricultural products.

To be specific about addressing key areas in the sector, Minister Nuetah said the Ministry of Agriculture, with technical support from its partners, currently formulating the National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP) that will guide the sector over the next six years.

“When completed the NADP will not only direct government investment to agriculture, but also provide guidance for development partners’ engagement in agriculture development in Liberia”, the Minister said.

He said within the framework of the NADP, Liberia will adopt a value-chain approach to developing various subsectors of the agricultural economy including food crops, tree crops, fruit crops, livestock and fisheries sectors.

Spelling out the projects in the various areas, he said the Ministry envisage the cultivation of rice on a 50,000 ha of lowland, 20,000 ha for mechanized production of cassava, while maize and vegetable will get 20,000 ha and 2,000 ha respectively.

For tree crops, he targets to develop 10,000 ha of cocoa for new smallholder cocoa farms, 15,000 ha for smallholder coffee farmers, and 5,000 ha for smallholder cashew farms while an additional 12,000 ha will be for smallholder farms in coastal counties.

He said for fruit crops, avocado will be developed on a 5,000 ha of smallholder farms, while citrus and papaya will be produced on 7,500 ha and 2,000 ha of smallholder farms.

Speaking for the livestock sector, he said there will be a need to revamp cattle ranges across the country and that poultry farming will be encouraged for broiler and layer production just as breeding goat, sheep and pig will be undertaken.

Minister also used the occasion to update the public on the current activities of the Ministry including the relaunching of the cooperative production programs for rice and other commodities, launching of the University of Liberia farms to enable students in agriculture acquire better practical skills, completed data mapping of lowland development in Nimba county as well as the launching of the peri-urban agriculture development program to begin in Monrovia and its environs, Kakata, Gbarnga and Ganta.

In conclusion Minister Nuetah talked about some of the challenges at the Ministry of Agriculture principal among them that of low budgetary support to carry on various activities as most of the allocation has to do with salaries of workers. He also spoke about the low manpower capacity at the institution.

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