Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and is also a key sector for human development and economic growth in Liberia. According to the World Bank (2019), over 75 percent of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. The sector contributes 25 – 35 percent to Liberia’s GDP.
With over 4 million acres of arable land, Liberia has potential for commercial agricultural production. The key sub-sectors are food crops; tree crops; horticultural crops; animal husbandry, and fisheries and aquaculture.
This means that there exist great potentials for investments in: rehabilitating old cocoa farms, establishing new plantations, and in value addition.
Liberia exports only cocoa beans. The table below presents cocoa production for the last three years.
Oil Palm Production
Oil palm production involves four (4) large foreign-owned concessionaires and thousands of smallholder farmers. Concessions produce Crude Palm Oil (CPO) mainly for export, while smallholder farmers produce raw palm oil mainly for domestic dietary needs. Over 80 percent of CPO produced is exported. The remaining 20 percent is processed locally to produce refined cooking oil and soap noodles.
The existing CPO refinery does not meet national demands for refined cooking oil. This means that there is need for increasing refinery capacity for CPO to satisfy domestic demand and for export to regional markets.
Increase in palm oil production is largely due to plantations operated by the large concessions coming into production. Some of the key players in this sub-sector are Golden Veroleum, Mano Palm Oil Industries Ltd, Maryland Oil Palm Plantation, and Equatorial Oil Palm.
There are opportunities for investments in the commercialization of all segments of the rice value chain (production, harvesting, aggregation, haulage, processing, storage, distribution, and marketing). Specifically, investments in irrigation facilities and mechanization are needed to improve production and increase rice yields.
Rubber is Liberia’s premier agricultural export commodity. Liberia is home to the largest contagious plantation of rubber in the world. Approximately 65,743 metric tons, valued at US$146.1 million, were exported from Liberia in 2019 in raw and semi-processed forms.
Production has steadily increased over the past three years. Increase in rubber production is due to new plantations coming into production by concessions and smallholder farmers alike. Rubber is now being initially processed and exported as Rubber Smoked Sheets (RSS).
Liberia produces and exports only crepe, smoked or concentrated latex. There is no further processing of rubber to produce consumer goods in Liberia. The need for investments in the rubber value chain for producing consumer goods such as latex gloves, rubber bands, rubber slippers, and rubber household utensils, cannot be overemphasized.
Some key players in the rubber sub-sector are Firestone, Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC), Salala Rubber Corporation, Cocopa Rubber, and Cavalla Rubber Corporation.
Investment opportunities in fruits and vegetables are in the conservation, processing and storage that will ensure their availability out of season, and possibly exportation. Cold storages for fruits and vegetables will meaningfully reduce perishability and enhance their availability.
Cassava is Liberia’s second staple crop. It is also a key ingredient in animal feeds and in many industrial processes. Annual cassava production is estimated at about 520,000 metric tons. Over 95 percent of the cassava produced in Liberia is used for local food needs. The rest is processed into dried cassava chips for export or into gari for local use and for export. Liberia exports about 10,000 metric tons of cassava in the form of dried chips and gari.
Cassava is produced throughout the country. It is a food crop with great potential for commercialization for both domestic utilities and export. Cassava is an essential ingredient for a variety of industrial processes and products and is in high demands in foreign markets for sweeteners, animal feeds, starch, noodles, flours, organic acid, and beer. Accordingly, immense investments opportunities exist to improve the entire cassava value chain.