The Liberian Senate has lashed out at Liberia Agriculture Commodities Regulatory Authority (LACRA) boss Dr. John Flomo for setting very high registration fees and bank balance for the exportation of cocoa.
Speaking Thursday, 8 August before the Senate Plenary on Capitol Hill, Dr. Flomo said for one to be a licensed exporter of cocoa, he or she must register with the amount of US$10,000 and have a bank account of US$25, 000 minimum.
This demand by Dr. Flomo glaringly appears to contradict President George Manneh Weah’s promise to Liberians that they will not be spectators in their own economy, owing to the fact that a vast majority of impoverished Liberians who might want to venture into the cocoa sector could be deprived of becoming exporters due to the high financial demands his official has set.
Instead, this decision could constrain many poor Liberian cocoa farmers to channel their exports through the few financially strong business people around, including the Lebanese.
Dr. Flomo claims that the bank balance of US$25,000.00 is to prove that the person has money and is capable of buying and exporting cocoa.
Dr. Flomo also says coca production could help with the development of the country’s economy.
But Gbarpolu County Sen. ArmahJallah says the fees for the license are too high.
According to him, LACRA set the standard to scare the Liberian farmers and promote the foreign exporters who are the ones that can afford said amount.
In response to Sen. Jallah, DrFlomo says for now there are nine exporters who are licensed, seven of whom he says are Liberians.
According Dr. Flomo, the farmers that are growing cocoa are doing it on their own farms, noting that LACRA doesn’t provide land for those farmers because they don’t have the resources for that.
The LACRA boss also says he has no power to give license to only Liberians because there’s no law that says so.
He indicates that they have modern machines that help make their work faster, revealing the availability of two modern machines that dry 15 metric tons of cocoa per hour.
Nimba County Sen. Prince Y. Johnson says there is a need to amend the law so that Liberians can be partakers of the cocoa export.
According to Sen. Johnson, the fees are too high for a Liberian man to afford, noting that LACRA is doing everything in the foreigners’ favor.
“Where will a Liberian man take US$10,000 and US$25,000 from in this kind of Economy?” Johnson wonders.
Sinoe County Sen. Augustine Chea says most of the warehouses in Monrovia that have cocoa in them are all owned and operated by Lebanese.
According to Sen. Chea, there are more Liberians that are in the production of cocoa, adding that LACRA needs to put mechanism in place to promote the Liberian owned business.By Ethel A. Tweh–Edited by Winston W. Parley