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Sierra Leone Business: Cacao agents owes Alibaz Trading Le1bn in business cash

Alibaz Trading Company, a regional buying center for cacao in Kenema, is faced with the challenge of recovering his business cash from agents that he works with in the sector. According to Solomon Leigh, the Internal Control Systems (ICS) Manager, he said that recovery is a real hell for them and that they have over Le1 billion in the hands of agents they are working with. “At the end of the season we were expecting that they should pay back but lots of stories, so recovery with the business cash is one of our biggest challenges.” Leigh, in an interview with Awoko Business, said that before this time the cacao trade has a conventional approach, as they were just buying through the farmers and agents over the years. So they realised that the farmers are expending so much on labour and realising very little monetary wise. The business he said is going well but for the agents that are based in the fields that have ICS team members attached to each of the agent in the region, but the procedure they use is to loan them money and they buy from the registered farmers and they sell to Alibaz, “so for them along the line is some kind of business and employment opportunity” he said. So an idea of certification came in to play and that is the reason why they set up the ICS office to register willing farmers within the operational communities of the cocoa producing districts. These farmers he said were registered, trained and linked with the certification program, Leigh said they started with the UTZ certification some years ago, but they later realised that there were other certification schemes that provide more opportunities, something like the organic certification, which are the Organic European Union (EU) and Organic National Agricultural Program (NOP). The EU he said enables them to sell to external markets particularly in the EU countries and the NOP gives them opportunity to sell to the United States market which are the current certificate that just achieved. During the cause of their partnering with international NGOs like GIZ and WHH, they have been provided with lot of opportunities including tools, rehabilitation support and some finances to the farmers so that they will be able to manage their farms and put it in a very good state. “The funds they receive will help increase their productivity, so at the end of the season after we would have traded with them, we pay back by giving them bonuses, the premiums depend on the volumes that they sold to us. So how they sell to us that is how they will benefit” said Leigh. At this stage, the company he said is also planning to target infrastructural development because at the end of the day when they are given these bonuses they just eat it and some put it into good use by ploughing it back to the farm to rehabilitate it. “But then we see that we need to make a mark, so our plan next year, when each community has sold to us a substantial amount we will now evaluate the supply based on each community” he said, adding that “we have a premium committee that will go back to the communities and try to meet them to come up with their felt needs and see how best we can use those funds to address priority needs like bridges to their locations, court barrays, water wells as they deem necessary.” The farmers are continuously being trained by Alibaz Company which he said has helped in improving the quality of the bean tremendously over the years. Citing that some years back after the war they had a situation of a discount where they ship the cocoa and it always have minus, “but we have been able to recover it through the premium because the quality has improved to a great extent” he bluffed. The farmers he said are appreciating it so much because when they go down to the communities their livelihood is changing, by just looking at the nutritional status of their children compared to the previous years which he says is because of the cash flow, so a lot of development is happening.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday October 01, 2018.

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