Dr. Vibbi noted that as part of his agency’s plans for this year, the aim is to strategically support and promote quality production and value addition to a range of produce, such as cocoa, coffee, cashew and cassava; linking credible chocolate and coffee makers with farmer cooperatives in Sierra Leone; creating other market opportunities where buyers and farmers meet and conduct business in a win-win situation.
He added that the PMB is working towards enhancing stakeholders’ knowledge of world market quality produce requirements; providing training opportunities to the PMB staff, farmers and other stakeholders on produce quality standards, packaging for export and local consumption.
He maintained that the agency will provide motorbikes for the PMB district staff to increase their effectiveness in carrying out ongoing support and oversight of farmers at sales points.
Dr. Vibbi spoke about his agency’s strong desire to promote trade and investment, in line with the current government’s priority to diversify the economy.
Ambassador Kaiser Araujo in his response said his embassy is open to such partnerships and that he is keen to work with the PMB to support cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone.
He noted that his country (Brazil) is not a very rich country and that whatever support Brazil embassies around the world provide, such support must be jointly financed and managed by them and the receiving agency/government.
The Brazil Ambassador said as a government, they like this approach because it helps reduce dependency and creates ownership; both of which are key to sustainable development.
Both Dr. James Vibbi and Mr. Kaiser Araujo identified and agreed possible areas of partnership and collaboration between the PMB and the Brazil Embassy in Sierra Leone.
Dr. Vibbi noted that PMB has not been doing well in engaging external stakeholders to form partnerships, and said that he is therefore keen to change this 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 stated
The immediate area of collaboration that both parties were able to agree on is the cocoa sector, in view of Brazil’s expertise in cocoa production and value adding, and the potential for increased cocoa production with added value in Sierra Leone for export.
Ambassador Kaiser Araujo said he is impressed with the presentation by Dr. Vibbi and the Operations Coordinator for PMB – Mr. Didan Sankoh. He requested a formal project proposal for consideration by the Embassy.
The Brazil Ambassador has since visited Kenema and Kailahun from Wednesday, 6March to Friday 8 March, 2019 and met with cocoa farmers and visited their farms.
Brazil and Sierra Leone are not at par in terms of cocoa production. Brazil is the largest cocoa producer in the Americas and the 6 in the world behind Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and Cameroon with production levels of 300,000-350,000 metric tons per year, compared to Sierra Leone that produces between 20,000 to 25,000 metric tons per year.
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, PMB’s mandate is to carry out the following: 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; facilitate and encourage scientific research aimed at improving the quality of produce; regulate the internal marketing of produce; secure the most favorable arrangements for the grading, among several other important functions.