Monrovia, Saturday, April 11, 2020) Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper, has, with immediate effect, cancelled a bidding process for heavy-duty tractors and other agricultural equipment in order to rationalize spending of donor funds.
She has requested a new bid that includes an expanded list of equipment better suited to Liberia’s climate and topography; more aligned to farmers’ needs and for smaller farm sizes and rationalized with agricultural assets already on ground.
“We need to have a more rational use of available resources, especially as we enter a State of Emergency for the COVID-19. We can’t afford to spend money buying equipment that will not be used”, Minister Cooper asserted.
Minister Cooper exercises overall supervision of all government and donor funded projects within the agriculture sector.
The heavy-duty tractors and other agricultural equipment were to be purchased through a multi donor-funded project under the Ministry of Agriculture named: “Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement & Commercialization (SAPEC)”.
The SAPEC Project comes to an end in June this year after it started in 2013.
Its objectives are to enhance incomes of small holder farmers, particularly women and rural youth and Intensify land under cassava, rice and vegetable production and improve land husbandry.
“Our farmers need equipment and tools suited for Liberia; for our farms and crops. Light tractors and skid steers that can facilitate de-stumping and land preparation on farm sizes that are as small as 1 hectare”, she insisted.
The Minister added, “Instead of three 16-ton trucks, that will have limited functionality, we should be looking at 3- to 6-ton trucks that are more agile and are more appropriate for off-road conditions. Farmers need help with post-harvest machinery, and to be able to use modern drying techniques that will reduce their losses after harvesting”.
She maintained, “The cancellation is meant to avoid wasteful spending, and reduce the quantity of unusable or unused equipment in our warehouses.
Minister Cooper noted –since her nomination and appointment by His Excellency President George Weah –practical actions are being put in place in accordance with the President’s vision for the Ministry of Agriculture to properly coordinate funding in the agriculture sector to benefit farmers.
The cancelled bid contained 17 pieces of equipment, parts and accessories. But for the re-tendering, Minister Cooper said, the bid has been expanded to 40 types of equipment that more directly benefit to rice producers, cassava processors and vegetable farmers.
Some very expensive equipment in the original bid were actually duplicates of machines that had been purchased through other projects in the past, and are sitting unused in the Ministry warehouses.
For the new bid, priority will be placed on companies that have proven capacity to procure, maintain and repair equipment.