Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has assigned a dedicated team to help understand the Cocoa ecosystem in Sierra Leone and find opportunities for IFC’s interventions with a priority to support.
Kalim Shah, Senior Country Manager for Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone said along with other stakeholders they are keen on working on three identified opportunities; Increase cocoa productivity and quality; Improve commercialization and value addition; and support the improvement of the policy and regulatory environment.
The two-day National Stakeholder Consultation Workshop was hosted at the Radisson Blu on the 15-16 March 2023 under the theme ‘Roadmap to a sustainable cocoa sector.’
For a country where agriculture employs 75 percent of the population, Sierra Leone has the potential to fulfil the strong demand for organic cocoa globally. As a result, Shah said this points to the significance of how a thriving cocoa sector can contribute to boosting the economy of Sierra Leone and creating better livelihoods for its citizens.
“Improving productivity and increasing incomes for farmers is a top priority to revive the sector,” he said. “Harnessing the potential of the sector will depend on the active participation of both public and private institutions, through increased investment and a supportive, coordinated policy and regulatory environment.”
Cocoa is the leading agricultural export commodity for Sierra Leone which accounts for up to $33.2 million in contribution to its GDP and represents about 9 percent of the country’s exports.
With about 20,000 metric tons of cocoa beans exported each year, Sierra Leone is playing an increasingly significant role in the global cocoa market as the second largest exporter of organic cocoa beans to the European market, and the 17th largest cocoa bean exporter in the world.
Theresa Tenneh Dick, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Agriculture read the statement on behalf of the Minister, wherein she said the government since 2018, has been working towards reversing several challenges towards achieving sustained growth of the cocoa sector.
She said that, in an effort to promote growth in the sector, improved technical packages to achieve significantly higher net yields of most crops have been developed and tested.
Unfortunately, she continued, in the past years a number of factors have thwarted attempts to improve the sector’s performance. “For instance, there is the lack of producer price incentives, weak institutional capacity to create and operate a modern and efficient production system, inadequate marketing and transport infrastructure, and ineffective linkages between researchers, extension workers, and farmers,” she said. “There was also severe farm labour shortages, marginalization of women, largely unmonitored subsistent agriculture, accelerated land degradation and depletion of forest resources, informal cross-border trade and huge trading margins to the detriment of producers and consumers.”
IFC’s Jean Habay and Meritxell Martinez both gave a presentation on IFC’s perspective in supporting growth in Sierra Leone’s cocoa sector.
The opening session was chaired by Invest Salone’s, Chukwu Emeka Chikezei, he urged stakeholders to guide the process through solutions on how to deal with the challenge of low productivity. He guided the discussions on ways to improve yields and productivity, how to better support cooperatives’ development and pathways to add value to the sector through quality and certification.
The event builds on IFC’s diagnostic study of Sierra Leone’s organic cocoa sector which underscores the sector’s considerable growth potential. The sector recently attracted investment from firms such as Organic Africa, Lizard Earth and Akuna Cocoa. In 2019, Sierra Leone was the third largest organic cocoa exporter in the world, with 11,500 metric tons of its cocoa exports certified organic. ZIJ/16/3/2023