What Am I Hearing About Cocoa And Coffee Export From Liberia?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

In the field of journalism, we are told to be careful with rumor, especially so when it comes to using rumor for a news story. However, considering the sociology of the Liberian society, it is often said that, ‘for every rumor, there is some truth in it,’ and so whenever there is a rumor mill, whether it is prevalent or not, there is always the belief that “there might be some truth” in such rumor. It is because of this perception that I have decided to write this piece in complete disbelief.

First let me say that I write this, not because I believe in the rumor, but sometimes it is necessary to do so to show one’s disbelief in such a rumor. Frankly, when I heard the rumor last weekend concerning cocoa and coffee being ‘exported’ from the country to a neighboring country, I became nonplused because these economic goods have been of great income to this country through the operation of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC).

It is not a hyperbole that the cocoa and coffee products in this country has contributed significantly to boosting farmers’ income, the creation of jobs and the income of the country. And so to hear this rumor that, instead of the LMPC, the products are being exported through the back door, which cannot be counted in circulating the Gross National Product (GNP) of the country, as such operation deprives the country of those benefits such as income, employment and social responsibility, which included the issue of “vacation jobs” for thousands of Liberian students in the past.

Again, this is just rumor, but as it is said, “for every rumor, there might be some truth,” and so there is a need whenever such rumor circulates. I know of the LPMC because I followed its activities in the past. One of the biggest assignments I got, while with the Daily Observer in the 1980’s was to do a supplement for the company. The then editor, Liberian businessman, Willis Knuckles, assigned arc-photojournalist, Sando Moore and I to visit three counties to gather appropriate and necessary information on the supplement.

As a result of that assignment, we visited Lofa, where we met one Prince Tamaklo, as the head; Nimba County one Peter Quoi, affectionately known as, “PQ” as the heads, and Bong County, where we met one David Mcgill, as the head.  Because that was a planned assignment, we did not encounter any difficulty, as the authorities provided the information we needed to do the supplement. Let me confess that we were treated like kings.

From that assignment, I got an appreciable understanding of the modus operandi of the LPMC, regarding the issue of the cocoa and coffee industries, and how this was very useful to the country’s economy. As such, to hear this rumor that what was obtaining in the past, has changed to the detriment of the country, is what I am concerned about on the matter. To hear that these products are being exported or taken to other places, other than the LPMC is disheartening. Once more, let me say that I still cannot believe this, but, as it is often said, “there might be some truth in this.”

For me, if this is the case, then, the LPMC is a “sleeping giant” or a “living dead” institution, whose operation needs to be evaluated, for the good of the society.

When I heard this rumor, one of the things that came to my mind was whether or not the institution was not getting the necessary support from the government or that much attention has not been paid to ensure its full effectiveness and efficiency. I got concerned because this country now needs an entity like the LPMC for its agricultural program, national income and employment.

Today, one of the issues affecting this country is the high level of unemployment. And so to see an institution that could help to alleviate this problem, is said not to be functioning as expected, is rather regrettable.

I should not be misconstrued as suggesting that this is owing to bad management or poor management, perhaps, it could be the general policy of the government, or the lack of interest and needed support to lubricate the wheel for the LPMC to move smoothly in carrying out the objectives for which it was set up many years ago.

Lest to say, we cannot, if it is true, this to budget shortfall, which has now become the cardinal issue of discussion in every corner, to an extent that the man in charge of Government’s fiscal policy, Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, last week faced a marathon and painstaking hearing at the Capitol Building.

Lastly, let me say that this is just a rumor, but as we believe as a people and nation, that “there is always some truth in rumor,” so, I am today by helping to spread this rumor.

Again, it is just rumor; I should not be chastised for this; I am only concerned because of the usefulness of this institution for economic growth and development, especially at this time when there is much talk about agricultural development.

Just last weekend, the Obasanjo Farm in Grand Cape Mount County made a giant step by launching the hatchery to boost local eggs production. Obviously, this will help generate some foreign exchange and reduce the demand for foreign exchange for import.

This, I believe is a great development, in the country’s agricultural development program. Likewise, the issue of the cocoa and coffee, if the rumor is true, should be considered to contribute to agricultural development.

On this particular issue, I have no case for which I should rest, as I usually do on controversial issues, awaiting any reaction or response, which if necessary, needs a reply from me, as the original writer or proponent of the issue, upon my return to the country, as I am expected to be away for few days on a journalistic mission.