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House summons Agriculture Minister, others

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The Plenary of the House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Moses Zinnah and his immediate deputies to state why the ministry is reneging on purchasing seed rice from local farmers in Nimba County.

The lawmakers took the decision on Thursday, 22 September following submission and subsequent debate on a communication from Nimba County Representative Larry Younquoi. In his communication, Representative Younquoi stated that the Agriculture Ministry has allegedly “reneged” on its responsibility to purchase seed rice farmers produced during the 2015/2016 farming season after encouragement and promises from the ministry and partners.

Rep. Younquoi’s assertions were contained in a formal letter of complaint to the Plenary of the House of Representatives, which is the highest decision making body of the House. He narrated that during the period under review, the Ministry of Agriculture and its partners allegedly encouraged the GbedinDorkodan Farmer Cooperative Society to cultivate 146 hectares of lowland in the Gbedin site with rice to serve as foundation for certified seeds for distribution among Liberian farmers.

This, Rep. Younquoi pointed out, led to the production of over 250 metric tons or 5,000 bags of these improved varieties of rice by the local farmers on the site. He said the consignment of seed rice is currently stockpiled in the Cooperative’s warehouse in Gbedin, being destroyed by pests.

He noted that the present situation faced by the locals has several negative impacts on the farmers, and the country at large. According to him, the alleged action by the ministry and its partners has subjected farmers to “harsh economic realities,” because they (farmers) cannot “get back what they put in the production process.”

The lawmaker added the farmers are not able to send their children to school, and provide health care for their families, amongst others due to the present situation affecting them. “As a result, poverty that was to be fought through the production of such huge quantity of rice has been reintroduced into the country.

Secondly, it risks the expiration of these seeds thereby relegating the consignment to just mere consumable goods. The implication of this is the reintroduction of food insecurity in the country. What is even appalling is that it is not only to Gbedin farmers that such unfilled promises are prevailing; it also allegedly obtains in other rice growing areas and to farming group across the country,” he stated.

The Nimba lawmaker furthered: “Against this background, I wish to enjoin you to kindly invite the Minister of Agriculture and his principle Deputies to appear before the Plenary to provide clarification on such alleged negligence within the agricultural sector of the country. As we speak, these aggrieved farmers are threatening to go on hunger strike if their grievances are not addressed. So, the sooner we act, the better it is for this country.”

Dr. Zinnah and his Deputies are expected to appear before the Plenary today, Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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