Liberia: COVID-19 Hampers Farmers’ Produce; As MoA Alarms Fertilizer Shortage
MONROVIA – The Ministry of Agriculture has alarmed an acute shortage of fertilizers in the country which has hampered farmers’ production for this farming season.
According to Ministry, the closure of neighboring countries’ borders with Liberia and the restricted inter-county movements of people during lockdown is creating huge demand for fertilizers to enhance crops, fruits, legumes, cocoa and coffee farming at planting early stages.
Nimba County, which produces substantial outputs of Liberia’s locally grown cabbage, is feeling the pinch of fertilizers’ scarcity, the Ministry’s situation report disclosed.
The insufficiency has caused an increase in a widely eaten legume. A 50-kg rice bag-size of cabbage, once sold for US$40 before the lockdown, is now marketed at US$75, Ministry of Agriculture’s (MoA) County Agriculture Coordinators report.
The ministry further lamented that the country is hit by nationwide unavailability of variety of seeds and tractors as the planting season draws closer.
However, the MoA is also working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to avail tractors and maize seeds to farmers.
According to the Ministry, the FAO has also purchased seed rice from local farmers and verified their qualities through the country’s National Standards Laboratory. “This puts money back into farmers’ pockets to replant this farming season.
A seed rice demonstration field in the heavily forested southeastern Liberia town of Jarkeken, which the country’s agriculture research center, the Central Agriculture Institute (CARI) set up, is ready for harvest, MOA disclosed in the situation report.
According to the ministry, the government through the MoA’s formulated COVID-19 Emergency Food Security Response Plan, is fast tracking the procurement process of various types of fertilizers and tractors for distribution to farmers across the country ahead of the planting season.
African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank are funding the plan.
The harvest will enable farmers have access to rice seeds in that part of Liberia. The African Development Bank and Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) funded Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement & Commercialization (SAPEC), under the MoA, financed the demonstration field
Rice farmers, through their umbrella organization the National Rice Federation of Liberia, report lack of agriculture technicians and limited manpower on farms to engage in rice production due to restricted movements of people during lockdown.
The Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), a dependency institution of the MoA, also reports reduction of farmers on farms due to social distancing COVID-19 health protocol. Farmers in cooperatives normally farm in groups of more than 20 persons. The agency worries that food production this year will drop due to the social distancing on farms.