The Sierra Leone Brewery Limited held a consultative meeting with farmers on the 20th May, 2015 in a bid to address the impact of Ebola on the business and to also demonstrate its commitment to the post Ebola recovery efforts in the country. The meeting was chaired by the Chairman of the Sierra Leone Sorghum Farmers Association, Mr. Dennis Jusu.
According to the Chairman of the Association, the aim of the meeting was to discuss with farmers and their partners on bringing lasting solutions to the various challenges faced especially with regards the reduced demand for Sorghum by Sierra Leone Brewery limited, which was attributed to unfair market competition and also the over-whelming impact of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak.
He went further state that the meeting will help to restore the confidence of farmers in the validity of the Community Revenue Enhancement through Agricultural Technology Extension (CREATE) program created by the Dutch government through European Cooperative for Rural Development (EUCORD) pioneered by HEINEKEN International and implemented by Sierra Leone Brewery Limited.
With the planting season now here, the provision of seeds to farmers in the CREATE project could not have been more opportune, it is an initiative that goes right to the core of protecting and sustaining livelihoods. Over 600 farm households in all the country’s districts have benefited from the over 1,500 metric tons of certified seedlings for both upland and lowland cultivation.
However, the Chairman stressed that these opportunities given by the Company stands at an edge as over the past two (2) years the demand for Sorghum by the Brewery had reduced by 50%. He therefore called on the government of Sierra Leone to institute mechanisms in which local industries like the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited will be protected from unfair market competition with imported products and to also by granting the Company free duty import for at least 5 years.
Speaking on behalf of the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited, the Managing Director Mr Alphonse Willy Ngana stated that the company is committed to sourcing home grown sorghum sustainably and has prioritized the building of resilient communities and households through community development project implementations for the people of Sierra Leone; improve health and sanitation services and increase food production among others.
“The aim of CREATE is to improve the quality and quantity of Sorghum in Sierra Leone. The overall goal is to alleviate poverty by increasing the food security and the livelihood of Sorghum Producers in Sierra Leone. It aims to directly increase the cash income of at least 2,000 farmers and 12,000 farmer families in Sierra Leone who are engaged in the Sorghum cultivation. It also aims to reduce the dependency on imported Malted barley by replacing it with 1,200 Metric Tonnes yearly of locally produced raw material (Sorghum),increasing the local food market in Sierra Leone, improved management of at least 1,000 hectares of arable land and developing at least twenty long term partnerships between producer groups, intermediaries and agro-processors. I am proud to announce to you that the project is right on course despite the significant negative socio economic impact of the Ebola outbreak”, Mr. Ngana noted.
He went further to state that HEINEKEN and its European partnerS through the Sustainable Economic Development Department (DDE) within the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs have committed themselves to provide the sum of USD Seven Million Dollars ($7,000,000) to expand Sorghum cultivation by local farmers and for use by the Brewery. This has necessitated to more investments which may have been completed in the brewery in equipments like the Mash filter, hammer mill, etc. had it not been for the outbreak of the Ebola virus. “When completed it will further enhance additional use of Sorghum in the brewing processes for all our brands”, he added.
The Managing Director concluded by stating that “In 2013 and 2014, Sierra Leone Brewery Limited procured 730 and 530 metric tons of Sorghum respectively from its farmers. These quantities were expected to have been used in these respective years. However, the influx of foreign brands in the market, and the Ebola outbreak significantly reduced production operations at the brewery. If this influx is not controlled, the brewery will have in its ware houses, Sorghum that can last for twenty four (24) months, which ordinarily prohibits it from buying more Sorghum in 2015 and 2016”.
Other speakers who endorsed the Brewery as true partners for growth and development were the Honorable Deputy Majority Leader of Parliament who applauded the Sorghum projects and also stated that he was attending the program in the capacity of a Sorghum farmer and in representation of the people in his Constituency. The Director, Ministry of Political Affairs and a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) also made statements.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.