The five- day working visit of the Executive Director International Cocoa Organization Michel Arrion accompanied by his Project Manager Yunusa Abubakarr to Sierra Leone started on the 31st August and ended on the 5th September 2020, spearheaded by the Produce Monitoring Board.
The visit of the Executive Director International Cocoa Organization ICCO was to have a better understanding on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis of the Cocoa sector in the country which will inform ICCO’s decision-making process for support to Sierra Leone. Also, to help identify possible areas for technical support to the country in positioning itself in pre-selecting samples of Cocoa that will compete admirably and successfully in the International Cocoa of Excellence 2021 edition.
Welcoming the Executive Director International Cocoa Organization, ICCO Michel Arrion and his Project Manager Yunusa Abubakarr, the Executive Chairman Produce Monitoring Board Dr. James Vibbi said the Produce Monitoring Board is an institution established by an act of Parliament in 2013 with the mandate to promote, regulate, monitor and evaluate the production, processing and marketing of produce in order to optimize the export earnings of farmers. He said PMB also encourages the production of quality produce which meet international standards. He added that over the years the Produce Monitoring Board has been providing pieces of training for farmers and other members in the Produce value chain on Good Agricultural Practices and quality enhancement on Cocoa. He said for the past 2 years, ICCO has been impressed with the strides made in Sierra Leone’s cocoa sector particularly in the enhancement of the quality of its cocoa beans. He said Sierra Leone has gained international accolades in both 2017and 2020 consecutively.
In October 2019, he added, Sierra Leone won an International Quality Cocoa Award as one of the Best 50 Quality Cocoa Exporting Countries, an award that PMB received on behalf of all cocoa stakeholders in Sierra Leone. This year 2020, Dr. Vibbi stated that the EU, through the Agricultural Market Briefs of June 2020 rated Sierra Leone 3rd in the world and 1st in Africa in the export of organic cocoa to the European cocoa market.
The Executive Chairman PMB further noted that the maiden visit of the Executive Director ICCO was timely, as his technical support will contribute to position Sierra Leone for the 2021 Cocoa of Excellence of which the PMB is confidently sure will bring a noticeable change in the Cocoa sector in Sierra Leone.
Holding discussion with the Vice President Dr. Juldeh Jalloh, the Executive Director International Cocoa Organization ICCO Michel Arrion said the International Cocoa Organization ICCO is the global governing body for cocoa. Its membership composed of both cocoa producing and cocoa consuming countries. 51 Member States among twenty-two are Cocoa producing and exports countries and representation of eleven African countries producing 80% of the world Cocoa.
The ICCO headquarters is now located in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (the world’s largest cocoa producer). He added that the ICCO was established in 1973 to put into effect the first International Cocoa Agreement (ICA) which was negotiated in Geneva at a United Nations International Cocoa Conference. Sierra Leone, through the Produce Monitoring Board, is a member of the Review Committee for the first time.
Mr. Michel Arrion said Sierra Leone has a lot of potentials in the cocoa sector and his visit to the country was to provide technical support to the Produce Monitoring Board in improving the Cocoa sector and to help the country participate in the World Cocoa of Excellence competition next year 2021.
Responding, the Vice President Dr, Juldeh Jalloh expressed delight for the visit of the ICCO Executive Director to Sierra Leone, noting that his visit is timely as agriculture is one of the government priorities and has made tremendous progress.
He said in the early days in Sierra Leone there was less or no focus on quality enhancement on cocoa production because production was like capital flight. He said the government under the leadership of President Dr. Julius Maada Bio is committed to promoting the Cocoa sector and agriculture in general and expressed the hope that the visit of the ICCO boss will contribute to the development of the Cocoa sector in the Sierra Leone and country’s economy.
The Executive Director ICCO also held discussions with the Ministers of Trade and Agriculture, International development partners, including EU, FAO, UNIDO, ITC, UNICEF, Private sector, and the Sierra Leone Cocoa, Coffee and Cashew Platform on their contributions to the Cocoa sector and possible ways of improving the Cocoa sector in the country.
The five -day visit was climaxed with a dinner in honour of the visit of the Executive Director ICCO Michel Arrion.