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Sierra Leone News: Cocoa farmers meet with Marketing Board

The Produce Monitoring Board (PMB) is restructuring the Cocoa Farmers Corporative to enhance quality and prices for cocoa that will hopefully put more money into the pockets of cocoa farmers. The Executive Chair of PMB, James Vibbi, said cocoa production has gone down in the country. He said it was against that backdrop that they are engaging farmers to have first-hand information about the challenges of cocoa farming. Vibbi said the PMB are challenged with funding to support all the sectors under their supervision. He said the PMB had engaged the Charge d’Affaires for the Embassy of Brazil to assist the cocoa sector. He assured farmers of seeking partners to support them in boosting quality and production. The Chair for MUNAFA Cocoa Farmers Corporative, Sullay Conteh, said they have been trying to control production to be in line with international quality stating that in 2010 the sector was receiving support until 2015 when it all ended. He revealed that exporters go into agreements with cooperatives on the basis of quality production and onward exportation of their products. Conteh said the Cooperative has 2,201 members established in 33 sections in seven chiefdoms within Kenema District. Their first export of cocoa in 2018 was 50 tons. He said this year they are targeting 200 tons for export. The Ngoyila Cocoa/Coffee Farmers Cooperative was established in 2016. Their Chair, Charles Morris, said they are finding it difficult to stand with not enough knowledge on fermentation and they are worried with price control in the market because their cooperative cannot buy from their members with the inflow of cash by outside agents. He revealed that they had 580 acres of cocoa farm. At the Wisdom Cocoa Farm in Hamston Estate in Teibor Hill, Kailahun District, farmers pleaded with PMB for policy that is in the interest of farmers and exporters stressing that their agro-forestry has been doing well with 1,500 pineapples, 1,500 banana. They said they are sending a signal to cocoa farmers that mix-cropping can assist and boost their revenue base. At a cocoa farm in Bo section in the Lower Bambara chiefdom, Henry Sam said cocoa has transformed their community with revenue used to build new houses and pay school charges for their children. He said the sector is still challenged without a dryer so he called on PMB to make available solar dryers to avoid sand and improve on quality. Despite their small farm size they were able to export 2 tons from the 18 acres. He pleaded for good seeds, price control, irrigation and a well structured cooperative and policies. The Executive Chair of PMB, Vibbi said tree crops is a cash income sector that government considered a major driving force that has the tendency of boosting the country’s economy especially cocoa. He said it has employment opportunities in the area of transport, farmers, buying agents and exporters. Vibbi said they have been working on certification issues, fair trade for more premium that can go directly to farmers and more community infrastructure to improve quality and premium payments.

MK/12/3/19

By Mohamed Kabba

Twitter: @chikakabba

Wednesday March 13, 2019.

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