Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and other partners commenced a three-day public private dialogue on trade policy perspectives on the cocoa sector in Sierra Leone.
The dialogue which is being held in Freetown attracts importers, farmers, members of the private sector, policymakers and development partners.
Some of the topics which will be discussed at the forum include, principles of good public private dialogue, improving consultative trade policymaking in Sierra Leone, regional trade framework, Sierra Leone National Trade Strategy and status of its implementation, using the National Trade Strategy as an advocacy and accountability tool, Government Cocoa Policy and challenges in the implementation of the policy, alignment of the cocoa policy with trade related features of national policy documents with International Trade Agreements, how trade could be better enhanced in cocoa policy and strategies, and addressing trade competitiveness.
Programme Officer, Private Sector Development and Trade, European Union Delegation, Nikola Kutin said that the West Africa Competitiveness Programme is a regional programme which is supported by the European Union. He said that the five million Euro project in Sierra Leone supports improved access to market; strengthen cassava, cocoa and palm oil value chain; and improving quality assurance infrastructure.
He said that under the programme, they have supported two cooperatives in Kono and Kailahun districts in the implementation of good agricultural practices, limiting post-harvest losses and putting in place an internal system for organic certification. He said that each of the cooperatives has 1500 farmers.
“In addition to the processing site, the programme has supported companies in the implementation of international standards such as ISO 9001 on quality management system and ISO 2200 on food safety management,” Kutin said.
The National Coordinator of International Trade Centre/West Africa Competitiveness Programme, Shaka Kawa welcomed participants at the dialogue. He said that the EU is very supportive of the project.
He said that the dialogue would assist the public private sectors to reach consensus and come up with recommendations regarding the right policies to build and support the business environment, and ensure access to market.
He said that some of the recommendations which will come from the dialogue will support the Ministries of Trade and Agriculture in the formulation of policies.
Minister of Trade, Dr. Hinga Sandi said that Sierra Leone is an economy that relies heavily on agriculture. “Its contribution to the GDP is approximately 57.4%, employing approximately 54.5% of the population. Agricultural development is one of the priority areas of His Excellence Dr. Julius Maada Bio and the government, considering that it has the potential for bringing sustainable macroeconomic growth and economic development, and contributing to the objectives of the Sierra Leone Med-Term National Plan 2018/2023 and the Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 3 – eradicating poverty and extreme hunger,” he said.
“Thus, crops such as Cocoa, Cassava and Palm Oil are known to have great export potential and involve many households.”
Sandi said trade and economic integration are at the heart of the Government of Sierra Leone’s Medium Term National Development Plan and governments current strategic framework.
He said that government considers regional trade as an opportunity to achieve its development objectives especially in the light of its membership of Regional
Economic Communities (ECOWAS. MRU, AU) and is a signatory to international treaties and commitments on trade.
He said that the Ministry of Trade and Industry has developed and reviewed various policies (National Trade Strategy, Agribusiness Strategy, Cooperative Policy, Consumer Protection Act of 2020, Industrial and SEZ policies etc) to accelerate trade and industrialization, and for the development of the next development plan (2023-2028).
The Minister spoke about the adoption of comprehensive and coherent policies that promote trade at domestic, sub-regional, regional and international levels.
He said that adopting a coherent set of policies would entail the immediate respect of international commitments, minimisation of distortions across sectors, consistent design and enforcement of policies and adopting regional policies that complement national ones.
“Implementation of the Government trade agenda requires a certain degree of inclusion and participation which is why the MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) is paying great attention to the private sector and agriculture value chains.
The private sector is better equipped to identify trade opportunities and can help provide market-based solutions to create new opportunities for trade of agriculture commodities and enhance regional and international trade,” he said.
“The Public sector has a great role in creating the environment for these sectoral developments especially in agriculture value chains. All businesses want public policies that will make doing business easier rather than through dialogue and advocacy. And the MTI is a strong advocate of this.”
He said that the Cocoa Value Chain is significant to Sierra Leone as is both a major revenue and forex earner.
He said that because it is organic by default, Sierra Leone is recognized for cocoa of excellence, adding that Sierra Leone Cocoa has tremendous potential not only in its traditional market, the European Union, but also in other trading blocs.
“While our sister Ministry, MAFS (Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security) has adopted a comprehensive Cocoa Policy, it would also be useful to consider inputs into the policy that will promote its trade especially for the bulk and market segments.
In this regard, the MTI warmly welcomes this PPD (Public Private Dialogue) on the Cocoa Policy and Trade, and looks forward to its outcomes,” Dr Sandi said.
He applauded the EU for providing the resources to ensure the success of the public private dialogue.