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SONA22 Fact Check: No, Atlantic Corporation is not the first to Export Organic Cocoa

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Claim: “In 2021, the Atlantic Cocoa Corporation exported the first containers of certified organic cocoa from Liberia.”

 

Source: President George Manneh Weah

 

Verdict: False

 

Full Text: President George Manneh Weah in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) claimed that the Atlantic Cocoa Corporation exported for the first time in Liberia containers of certified organic cocoa from Liberia.

 

“ While Liberia’s cocoa production lags behind production giants in the region, Liberian cocoa continues to win awards and prizes in international competitions for its exceptional quality. My administration is therefore promoting and working to provide the enabling environment for high-quality production of cash and food crops.

 

Verification: In Liberia, cocoa is an important cash crop whose export potential remains dormant as a result of 14 years of civil conflict that plagued the country from 1989 to 2003 and the slow, albeit growing, support the sector has received since the end of the conflict. 

 

The cocoa output that stood at 10,000 tons per year in the 1970s dropped to near-zero levels for the duration of the conflict.

 

A Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) survey published in 2002 noted that the number of cocoa farms operating in 2001 had dropped to 38% of the pre-war level (1988), indicating the widespread impact.

On the side of the market, Liberia faces an uphill battle as it seeks to position itself with strong regional competitors such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the former with a global reputation for supply capacity and consistency and the latter with a worldwide reputation for supplying high-quality cocoa. 

 

There is significant progress to be made in terms of building a global brand for Liberian cocoa that not only builds upon high levels of supply consistency and quality but is also identified through a brand of its own in international target markets.

The Stage Media in verifying the claims reached out to Sheikh Turay, CEO of Liberation Cocoa, who did not agree with the information.

 

He said exporting organic cocoa is the new trend for cocoa dealers adding that in time past, exports were just cocoa beans.

 

He named African Venture Liberia as the institution that exported cocoa in 2018.

 

Also, a former employee Siehdi, of the company posted on her social media page on January 24 that the claim was untrue.

 

“The FIRST CONTAINERS OF CERTIFIED COCOA amounting to 82 tons exported from Liberia in 2018 was being sold by Africa Ventures Limited (AVL) owned by Mr. George Howard who was a beneficiary of a project.”

“I worked on as an Intervention Manager. I spent months, weeks, days on the roads from Monrovia to Buu-Yao District, Nimba County. I can name every town that was part of that success story. 

LACRA and MOA have that information and I do too. Atlantic is not the first to export certified cocoa. #SONA

According to her, the African Venture Liberia was been certified by UTZ now Rainforest Alliance.

 

Additionally, the Liberia National Cocoa Strategy 2014-2018 states that the figures of sustainable production stand in stark contrast to the overall supply of conventional cocoa on the global market, of which 70% is produced in Africa

 

Both Rainforest Alliance and organic cocoa have driven this trend with 76.2% and 75.7%, respectively, of their total supply provided by Latin America. 

 

It furthers that Fairtrade represents the exception to this rule, being predominantly supplied by African producers. 

 

The trend for sourcing is likely to change, not only as the field for certified cocoa is fairly new, but also as West African producers start to certify their production. Organic cocoa is the only sustainable cocoa with sourcing (4.9%) from Asia.

 

Meanwhile, TSM contacted Gordon Garway, Communication Director, Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA).

 

According to him, the information was given included in SONA22 because the entity recorded current events under the institution.

 

“We do not have a record of what occurred before the establishment of LACRA, so we recorded what exactly occurred since we started operation.”

 

LACRA was established to replace the Liberian Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) as defined in Chapter 57 of the Executive Law of 1973 for promoting the production, processing and marketing of high-quality agricultural commodities particularly cocoa, coffee, palm other agricultural produce.

 

The entity is to ensure the provision of a well-regulated market for cocoa, coffee, palm and other agricultural products for fair competition among all actors in the value chain; facilitate standardization of quality of agricultural commodities including cocoa, coffee, palm etc.

 

Conclusion: President Weah’s claim that ACC is the first to export organic cocoa is False; moreover, LACRA replaced LPMC; therefore, the SONA22 on Cocoa export is incorrect.

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