Sierra Leone looks set to add value to cocoa for export

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 March 2019:

The Executive Chairman of the Sierra Leone Produce Monitoring Board (SLPMB), Dr. James Vibbi last Friday, 1st March 2019, met with the Ambassador of Brazil to Sierra Leone, Mr. Kaiser Araujo at his Brazil Embassy Office in Aberdeen, Freetown, to exchange ideas and explore possibilities in forming partnership that could help Sierra Leone increase its cocoa production and add value for export.

Dr. Vibbi noted that as part of his agency’s plans for this year, the aim is to strategically support and promote quality production and value addition to a range of produce, such as cocoa, coffee, cashew and cassava; linking credible chocolate and coffee makers with farmer cooperatives in Sierra Leone; creating other market opportunities where buyers and farmers meet and conduct business in a win-win situation.

He said that PMB is working towards enhancing stakeholders’ knowledge of world market quality produce requirements; providing training opportunities to PMB staff, farmers and other stakeholders on produce quality standards, packaging for export and local consumption.

The agency will provide motorbikes for PMB district staff to increase their effectiveness in carrying out ongoing support and oversight of farmers at farm gates.

Dr. Vibbi spoke about his agency’s strong desire to promote trade and investment, in line with the current Government’s priority to diversify the economy.

Ambassador Kaiser Araujo said that his embassy is open to such partnerships and that he is keen to work with PMB to support cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone.

He however noted that his country (Brazil) is not a very rich country and that whatever support Brazil embassies around the world provide, such support must be jointly managed and financed by them and the receiving agency/government.

He said they like this approach because it helps reduce dependency and creates ownership, both of which are key to the sustainability of interventions.

Both Dr. James Vibbi and Mr. Kaiser Araujo identified and agreed possible areas of partnership and collaboration between PMB and the Brazil Embassy in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Vibbi noted that PMB has not been doing well in engaging external stakeholders to form partnerships, and said that he is keen to change this narrative.

“I have a strong belief in partnerships as I believe working together and combining everyone’s efforts and expertise will help greatly in addressing complex challenges, produce sustainable benefits and deliver outcomes for the produce sector that we (PMB) support and regulate in ways that will not be easily or efficiently achieved by working solo,” Dr. Vibbi stated

The immediate area of collaboration that both parties were able to agree on is the cocoa sector, in view of Brazil’s expertise in cocoa production and value adding, and the potential for increased cocoa production with added value in Sierra Leone for export.

Ambassador Kaiser Araujo said he is impressed with the presentation by Dr. Vibbi and the Operations Coordinator for PMB – Mr. Didan Sankoh. He requested a formal project proposal for consideration by the Embassy.

The Ambassador also agreed to visit Kenema and Kailahun from Wednesday, 6th March to Friday 8th March 2019 to meet with cocoa farmers and visit their cocoa farms. He will also speak with PMB staff in Kenema and Kailahun to get first-hand knowledge of issues cocoa farmers and PMB staff are facing.

Mr.  Araujo thanked Dr. Vibbi and his team for being proactive, and assured him of his Embassy’s desire to work with Dr. Vibbi and his agency.

From cocoa to chocolates

Brazil and Sierra Leone are not at par in terms of cocoa production, as Brazil is the largest cocoa producer in the Americas and the 6th in the world behind Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and Cameroon with production levels of 300,000-350,000 mt per year, compared to Sierra Leone that produces between 20,000 to 25,000 mt per year.

So why does Sierra Leone wants to enter into partnership with Brazil?

“Brazil has huge experience in the cocoa sector. Establishing a partnership between the Brazil Embassy and PMB is key to the cocoa sector in Sierra Leone. The world needs more cocoa than it can produce. Therefore, entering into a partnership with the Brazil Embassy is key to us. We now have a reinvigorated team at PMB, and we are keen to continue such strategic external engagement to help develop the produce sector in Sierra Leone,” said Dr. Vibbi.

The Produce Monitoring Board was established by an Act of Parliament 2013. As provided for in Part III, Section 7(1&2) of this Act, PMB’s mandate is to carry out the following:

Regulate, promote and improve the marketing of produce in order to optimise the export earnings of farmers; encourage the production of quality produce which meet international standards; initiate and encourage the processing of produce with the aim of adding value to them for export and for local consumption; facilitate and encourage scientific research aimed at improving the quality of produce; regulate the internal marketing of produce; secure the most favourable arrangements for the grading, sealing, certification and sale of produce on behalf of exporters; cooperate with other stakeholders to institute measures to eliminate the smuggling of produce; assist exporters of produce to find markets and provide other relevant information and assistance to facilitate exports; ensure that farmers of produce are paid fair prices by periodically announcing the indicative prices; and maintain the country’s membership to all International Commodity Organisations.

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