Project description / objective
GROW Liberia was an agribusiness and investment advisory programme that partnered with businesses, investors, associations and government agencies to accelerate inclusive economic returns within high-growth industries in Liberia. GROW concludes in June 2022.
Market systems focus
The premium cocoa market offers an important opportunity to secure significant price premiums for higher quality cocoa that promotes social and environmental good. In Liberia, over 30,000 farming households rely on cocoa as their main source of income and cocoa is the second largest agricultural export.
However, Liberia’s cocoa industry is also fragmented, characterised by historically weak relationships and poorly aligned price incentives between producers, traders, exporters, and international buyers. Although the premium market offers a valuable opportunity, the cocoa quality, transparency and certification standards, and branding that would unlock premium buyers did not exist in Liberia. Moreover, the regulatory environment – especially the ongoing flirtation with the idea of a government-controlled market – rattles buyers and investors.
A strong and competitive agro-inputs sector is critical to the improved performance of Liberia’s vegetables market. For years, Liberia’s agro-input industry has been dominated by traders who focus on government and donor contracts rather than commercial and productive farmers. As a result, inconsistent agro-input supply and virtually no agronomic advisory were reaching farmers. A high import tariffs, poor infrastructure and a small market further dissuaded investment, keeping input prices high.
Rubber is the largest non-extractive export for Liberia. However, the lack of competitive processing alternatives, low and volatile global pricing, and poor farm productivity limit return for commercial and small farmers and dissuade continued and new investment.
Agro-processing & oil palm
GROW also invested in agro-processing and oil palm markets. This activity is now closed.
Support for certification
GROW partnered with cooperatives, traders, commercial farms and service providers to prepare their businesses for certification, integrate transparent purchase and aggregation practices, and expand the agricultural advisory offered to their farmer networks. Additionally, centralised fermentation and drying facilities were established to improve cocoa quality – with companies achieving Liberia’s first ever fine flavour and certified organic trade.
Strengthening supply chain relationships
GROW undertook a number of activities designed to strengthen supply chain relationships, including new premium market contracts, match-making between cooperatives and buyers, and organic and fair trade certification alongside the provision of local certification preparedness advisory.
Agronomic advice services
GROW built awareness of and prepared Liberia’s cocoa companies and cooperatives for the premium market, including professionalising, branding and marketing and international trade fair participation. GROW also promoted Liberia’s market amongst international premium buyers, including scoping visits, market and investment information, and other investment promotion.
Industry advocacy for a better investment climate
GROW worked with emerging industry groups to strengthen their voice and advocacy against potentially harmful, single buyer regulation and towards a more attractive investment climate. GROW also advised government partners on regulatory and policy adaptations that would better attract premium market investment.
Advocacy for a smarter tax policy
GROW supported partners to advocate for a smarter tax policy, reducing tariffs to attract needed investment from suppliers and distributors. Beginning in 2019, the President signed three consecutive Executive Orders to eliminate import tariffs on agro-inputs and equipment, with guidance and implementation oversight from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Encouraging farmer-centric investment & distribution strategies
GROW attracted regional distributors to Liberia, helping them to establish a presence and farmer-centered distribution and engagement.
Incubating a distribution network of agro-dealers
GROW worked with a network of agro-dealers to professionalise to better target, reach and advise farmer customers. Sales agents, market outlets and innovative marketing enabled agro-dealers to service a growing number of female clients. The provision of agronomic advice through expanded distribution and agro-dealer networks, as well as a first short course via a local agronomic college, were also highly valued by Liberia’s vegetable farmers.
Co-investment in local rubber processing factories
GROW partnered with rubber farmers to establish Ribbed Smoked Sheets (RSS) processing facilities. This alternative processing method requires less upfront capital investment and offers a more attractive price point when compared to traditional methods. It also moves the Liberian rubber sector closer to value-added manufacturing.
Promotion of industry-driven skills development programme
GROW facilitated industry-driven skills development for actors along the value chain, from tappers to farm managers to factory workers.
Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
GROW collaborated with 242 partners to increase incomes for 39,200 households, create 5,630 jobs, and facilitate $3.7m in partner investment.
- 22,500 households have increased their income from GROW’s interventions in the cocoa sector, with a total $5,935,000 NAIC.
- Organic and fine flavour cocoa (Liberia’s first) exported to European buyers.
- Improved (price and fairness) trade relationships along the value chain via alignment towards premium market requirements. There is now a groundswell of activity, investment and public support for premium markets in Liberia.
- Successive efforts to launch regulation in support of a single, government-run exporter model was halted and sector coordination and collaboration improved.
- 14,500 households have increased their income from GROW’s interventions in the vegetables sector, with a total $9,718,000 NAIC.
- The President signed three consecutive Executive Orders to eliminate import tariffs on agro-inputs and equipment. Distributor partners have begun to invest in larger order quantities delivered directly through the port, resulting in lower product costs and better labelling
- New regional and local distributors have launched operations in Liberia. Professionalised agro-dealers are also expanding, including through highly lucrative sales agent and market outlet models.
- Agricultural advisory offered by agro-dealers and sales agents is highly valued, with 96 per cent of those farmers reporting increased productivity (98 per cent) attributing this to improved farming practices.
- Efforts to introduce an inclusive business model, better targeted to female farmers, increased agro-dealer annual sales by 77 per cent and grew their female client base by 120 per cent.
- Proof of concept, including factory and investment case for Ribbed Smoked Sheets processing, completed.
[Final update April 2022]