LIBERIA – The Liberia Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (LACRA) has revised the cocoa regulations governing the sector to suit local exporters.

This follows the Senate issuing a directive to the regulatory body to revise the policy as the cocoa regulations have gone through serious criticisms in recent time by cocoa farmers and stakeholders with concern that the regulations were not in the interest of the many actors in the cocoa sector.

Some of the amendments undertaken according to Dr. John S. Flomo, Director General of LACRA are, export license fee for local firms is now reduced to US$5,000 and foreign exporters’ license fee set at US$10,000.

He added that the royalties fee is reduced to US$10 per ton and that exporters are allowed to process cocoa in their own warehouses but must be in conformity with international standards.

Previously, the policies required US$10,000 as license fee for existing local exporters, US$50 as royalties fee per ton and that LACRA’s warehouses become compulsory for exporters.

At the time, local exporters argued that fees set were a strategy by LACRA to put them out of business and promote foreign export firms.

According to Dr. Flomo, the changes were effected after series of consultations with farmers, stakeholders, exporters and development partners.

He said the regulations are intended to create a standard in the cocoa sector so that the country can compete with neighbouring countries as well as generate revenues for the government.

“Cocoa exporters must meet the standard in line with the policies. The exporters and farmers are pleased with the changes being made.’’ He added.

According to him, there are currently 11 exporters within the cocoa sector, majority of whom are Liberians.

Dr. Flomo highlighted that LACRA had made investments in the sector despite having limited funds, “With limited resources, we have provided modern dryers, and constructed warehouses to contribute to the best quality of cocoa on the market.”

The entity can now use an electronic device to weigh cocoa and have set up a better database to monitor the progress of cocoa production.

Flomo said that his entity is seriously working to improve other areas, including rubber, oil palm and vegetables to improve the economy. They are working with investors and the World Bank to source additional funding for the sector to support smallholder farmers.

Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia has approved US$500,000 for the development of the cocoa sector reports the Observer.

Gordon Garway, communications manager at LACRA said the money will be used to build the capacities of smallholder farmers in the areas of training and the provision of farming inputs.

LACRA is the regulatory body of the cocoa and coffee sector, emulating the defunct Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC).

It is responsible to regulate all agricultural produce including cocoa, coffee and oil palm products from farm gates to the export markets.