In his statement, the Executive Chairman of Produce Monitoring Board, Dr. James Vibbi informed that 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, noting that it mandate is to regulate, promote and improve the marketing of produce in order to optimize 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 and among others.
Highlighting his agency’s plans for this year, he said his aim is to strategically support and promote quality production and value addition to produce like cocoa, coffee, cashew nut and cassava; linking credible chocolate and coffee makers with farmer cooperatives in Sierra Leone; creating other market opportunities where buyers and famers meet and conduct business in a win-win situation and to enhancing stakeholders’ knowledge of world market quality produce requirements.
Dr. Vibbi emphasized that his agency’s strong desire is to promote trade and investment, in line with the current Government’s priority to diversify the economy, noting that PMB has not been doing well in engaging external stakeholders to form partnerships, adding that he aim is to change such 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 noted.
He said that Brazil and Sierra Leone are not at par in terms of cocoa production, as Brazil is the largest cocoa producer in the Americas, adding that Brazil has huge experience in the cocoa sector, and initiating 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 as we now have a reinvigorated team at PMB that keen to continue such strategic external engagements to help develop the produce sector in Sierra Leone, Dr. Vibbi averred.
In his responses, The Chargé D’affaires (Head of Mission) of Brazil to Sierra Leone, Kaiser Araujo informed that his embassy is open to such partnerships and that he is keen to working with PMB to support cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone.
He stated that his country is not a rich country and that whatever support Brazil embassies around the world provide, such support would have to be jointly managed and financed by them and the receiving agency/government.
He commended the Executive Chairman for such approach as he noted that it helps reduce dependency and creates ownership, both of which are vital to the sustainability of interventions.
The Chargé D’affaires asked PMB to prepare and submit a project proposal which he said they will continue the discussions until such proposal is approved because he was impressed with the presentation made by Dr. Vibbi and the Operations Coordinator for PMB, Didan Sankoh.
At the end of the meeting, Dr. James Vibbi and Mr. Kaiser Araujo were able to identify and agree on possible areas of partnership and collaboration between PMB and the Brazil Embassy in Sierra Leone.
The immediate area of collaboration that both parties were able to agree on was on the cocoa sector given the expertise Brazil has in this sector, and the potentials for increased cocoa production in Sierra Leone for export and for value addition.
The Chargé D’affaires also agreed to visit Kenema and Kailahun from Wednesday, 6th March to Friday 8th March 2019 to meet with some cocoa farmers, visit some cocoa farms, and speak with PMB staff in Kenema and Kailahun to get first-hand knowledge of issues cocoa farmers and PMB staff face. Mr. Araujo thanked Dr. Vibbi and his team for being proactive and assured him of his Embassy’s desire to work with people like him and his agency.