Cocoa production in Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria is saturated, with limited scope for expansion and many competitors. This makes Liberia the next growth market for the production of cocoa.
Liberia’s cocoa sector is unstructured with some 90% of cocoa being bought by informal traders and exported at fair average quality. In addition, due to limited investment, Liberian cocoa yields around 200 kg per hectare, about 30% of that obtained in neighboring countries and 20% of its potential.
With a climate perfect for growing cocoa, abundant rainfall and land, and a new highway linking the cocoa belt (which runs from Grand Gedeh through Nimba, Lofa and Bong counties all the way to Grand Cape Mount) to the port of Monrovia, Liberia provides excellent opportunities for growth, giving investors in cocoa input provision, production, aggregation and exporting scope to make significant profits.
Working with farmers
There are 30,000 smallholder farmers growing cocoa. Most are located in Lofa, Nimba and Bong. There are 36 cocoa cooperatives registered with the Cooperatives Development Authority. NIC and CDA are on hand to provide further information and to guide you to the best-run ones, such as Kwakersieh and Kwalowakiah in Nimba. There are a number of development partner programs that are providing extension support and building farmer and cooperative capacity through numerous farmer fi eld schools. The main programs are LIFE III (USAID via ACDI/VOCA), Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Project in Nimba (World Bank via Canadian Cooperative experts SOCODEVI) and the IFAD-funded Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Project in Lofa.
Sources for main inputs
There are two farm input suppliers in Liberia (Wienco and Green Farm) leaving space for more. Most smallholder cocoa farmers do not use agro inputs except for polythene bags and spades. For those seeking to invest in an anchor farm, land is accessible either by purchasing private estates — the Ministry of Foreign Aff airs has titles on most rural estates — or by securing access to community land through a community-engagement process led by the Land Commission. Plots of less than 10,000 hectares are easily accessible through the due process. NIC can facilitate this process.
High quality cocoa agriculture and its adequate postharvest handling do not require electricity. Access to electricity in the cocoa belt is available from the cross-country electrifi cation program, under which electricity is purchased from Cote D’Ivoire. Liberia will re-instate reliable on-grid electricity by 2017 and bring the cost down to 25 US$ cents per kilo watt hour through the rehabilitation of the Mount Coff ee power station and the construction of Heavy Fuel Oil generation capacity. Three mini-hydro plants in Lofa and Bong counties and a biomass plant in Lofa are also planned.
Getting your inputs in and your outputs out
Liberia has completed the pavement of the main highway from Liberia to Ganta up to the Guinean border, thus linking the main horticulture areas in Lofa, Bong and Nimba to the Freeport of Monrovia, the Port of Bassa, and the Monrovia- Bomi Highway that links to the border of Sierra Leone. Travel time from Ganta to Monrovia is about 3 hours.