We must grow rice on commercial scale

News that the Ministry of Agriculture sub-office in Maryland County, southeast Liberia is collaborating with partners to produce parboiled rice for local consumption is highly commendable. But we think the exercise should be carried in all 15 counties at a large scale, not only for consumption, but commercial purpose.

It goes without any argument that agriculture holds the key to lifting Liberians out of poverty, and unless we realize this early as a nation, we are going nowhere. Self-sufficiency in food is the bedrock upon which all other developmental programs are achievable.

Maryland County Agriculture Coordinator Jerome Karnwea, says the parboiled rice being produced in the county has the same quality as imported rice soled on the Liberian market.

He says the ministry’s partner, SAPEC and Africa rice deems it wise to come to the aid of local farmers in Maryland by providing machines for the production of parboiled rice to introduce them to modern way of production to get them on par with other formers in the sub-region.

We believe a whole lot could be achieved if the ongoing experiment is conducted nationwide to buttress farmers’ efforts in producing enough food, especially, our stable, rice.

For too long our national leaders have preached food self-sufficiency without matching words with actions, so this sector has remained a mere policy on the book, yielding no tangible result. Each year this country spends several million dollars just on rice importation along.

The Ministry of Agriculture itself is found wanting in its statutory mandate in working with farmers to make this country self-reliant in food. During her entire 12 years in office, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had some of the most qualified Liberian Agriculturalists, including Dr. Chris Toe, Dr. Florence Chenoweth and Dr. Moses Zinnah, among others, yet the nation can still not feed itself. What actually it is the problem?

Liberia’s new Minister of Agriculture Dr. Mongana S. Flomo, promises to make this country self-sufficient in food by 2022 under the Pro-poor government of President George Manneh Weah. We hope this would not be another talking shop that would land citizens to mere illusion than reality.

It is about time we move away from just talking and begin to work the talk. In other words, feeding the nation or ourselves should not be based on holding talks with rice importers or business people and getting promises from them that go unfulfilled.

Instead, we reiterate that sustainable action is directly investing in the soil right now. We have everything it takes to become self-sufficient in food: fertile soil, youthful population and a very popular President, who they believe and look up to, and who is capable of rallying them any time to any national call. All that it would take is willpower. The time is now.

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