2.1. Marketing

Liberian agriculture has four marketing channels for its different products.

a. Concessions

All the rubber product is sold to one of the four factories belonging to three concessions. The concessions fix their buying price monthly according to the New York price of the previous month, so that the price for Liberian farmers follows the world market price with a slight lag.

Liberia has an official rubber price support scheme which fixes a minimum price. If the factory price is lower, the government advances the difference, but this advance must be repaid if a fixed maximum price is exceeded. Transportation costs are an important factor determining the actual proceeds of the farmers. While the road system as such is of minor importance here rubber farms are usually established only where roads exist. The distance to the factory determines transportation costs. Small producers are at a disadvantage because they have, to use taxis to transport their limited quantities and the transport price of taxis is 4 5 times that of trucks,

b. Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC)

The LPMC is a marketing board which has the monopoly of all agricultural exports except rubber. The shares of the corporation belong, to equal parts, to the Liberian Government and to the East Asiatic Company which supplies the management and exports the crops on a commission basis. Every month, the LPMC fixes standard buying prices for the whole country. At this price, the six agents appointed by the LPMC buy coffee, cocoa, palm kernel and piassava. For their services, the agents receive a fixed commission from the LPMC which also pays for transport, bags,etc.. The LPMC tries to keep the prices at a constant level and has built up a reserve fund which can be used to compensate fluctuations of the world market price.

The peasants usually sell to Lebanese traders who again sell to sub agents and these deliver the products to the agents. As the traders know the agent's buying price, they have to calculate their prices so as to cover not only their handling expenses and profits, but also the losses due to drying and deterioration. Peasants may be aware of the agent's buying prices as these are announced on the radio, but the knowledge is often of little value to them since most of them have a vague notion of the meaning of the various units of weights and measures used. Profiteering on the part of the traders and unawareness of the marketing costs on the part of the peasants cause great distrust in local marketing. LPMC buys upgraded products and does the cleaning and grading on its own premises. It maintains warehouses, coffeemills, palms kernel crackers, etc

To promote agriculture, the LPMC established a model coffee estate, distributed high yielding planting material from its nurseries, sent 12 agriculturists abroad for training in tree crop cultivation and launched a rice project. 4 caterpillars and a low loader have also been purchased for clearing land for future tree crops. The establishment of a network of rice purchasing agents and milling facilities at strategic points of production is under way.

The LPMC was quite successful in reducing the price fluctuations of export crops and in organizing a marketing system within the country. This had undoubtedly a stimulating effect on the production. Unfortunately, besides appointing ire 6 agents, the LPMC did nothing to create an•intensive marketing network and arrange for local grading. The prices paid by the LPMC were attractive for the farmers and even for farmers of neighbouring countries, but still rather low when compared w the selling price of the LPMC. To date, its high profits have not been ploughed back into agriculture but represent a tax on the agricultural producer.

c. Lebanese Traders

To a large extent, the retail market is in the hands of Lebanese traders. They replaced the Liberian traders who often had to give up business because family members did not repay advances. Little is known about quantities marketed and marketing procedures of the Lebanese traders. The main crops are rice, cassava, fruits, oil, sweet potatoes and peppers. The process of price formulation is often disguised because unknown interest rates for credits granted are included a situation which offers wide scope for cheating the producers.

d. Women "making market"

At the local level, women "making market" play an important role. Numerous markets throughout the country are held either daily or on certain days of the week. The markets are organized and controlled by the government, and the marketing process lies completely in the hands of women. One group consists of the "target marketers", i, e. women from the families of traditional farmers who occasionally sell surpluses to get cash to purchase certain items they need. Another group is that of the professional traders, women who buy products for resale in order to earn an income. In both cases, the daily turnover and the amount of products in stock are often extremely limited. "Making market" is not only an occupation to earn an income, but also a way of life.