The Liberian government has been clarifying the announcement this week that it would from now on ban all food exports from the country because of rising food prices. The explanation comes as heads of state of the sub-regional organization ? Mano River Union prepare to meet this Thursday in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. The Mano River Union comprises Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  It is expected that during the Monrovia meeting Ivory Coast would be admitted as the fourth member of the union.

Liberian information minister Lawrence Bropleh told VOA the government's announced ban on food export was made out of concerns about the illegal shipment of food commodities across Liberia?s borders.

?The Liberian government is not saying that legal exports like palm oil and other commodities may not be exported outside of Liberia. What we are saying is that there are many who would not go through the legal channels in order to export. And that is what we are concerned about because we are trying to make sure that there is a national food security policy and that there is self-sufficiency in food production in Liberia in the wake of the worldwide rise in commodities,? he said.

Bropleh said Liberia?s exports include palm oil, which he said is being exported to as far as the United States. He said Liberia was concerned about the illegal leakages that take place through its borders and which he said is denying the country well needed export fee.

?We are concerned and you need to know that there has been a lot of interdiction regarding people trying to take rice out of the country illegally to neighboring countries. We do not want to see that happen, and so we have been trying to put in place the proper mechanisms of which we can prevent this,? Bropleh said.

He said Liberians have been mandated by their president to make good use of their fertile soil to grow more food.          

?You also need to know that through the leadership of the ministry of agriculture that there is a massive effort now, through the guidance of our president of the back-to-the-soil to make sure that every Liberian understand that we have been given a country blessed by God, very fertile, and we need to begin to grow that which we can eat, rice, cassava, plantain, and all of those things that can help us to be self-sufficient in our food consumption and production,? Bropleh said.

He said Liberia can minimize dependence on food imports by tilling its fertile soil through mechanized agriculture.

?We are looking at a kaleidoscope of opportunities. One, we?re looking at mechanized farming, making sure that those who have gotten a large portion of land so that the ministry of agriculture would assist them through our partners to have the tools and materials needed in order to do large-scale farming,? he said.

Bropleh said Liberia is hosting this week the summit of the Mano River Union during which he said the leaders would look at ways to improve food self-sufficiency in the West Africa sub-region.

?You need to know that as we are now this morning, the Liberian government has welcomed the Mano River Union. And on tomorrow the heads of state should be here. Minister Toe and others have been meeting with the agriculture ministers in the Mano River Union looking at a collaborated approach of improving food sufficiency in the region. So the world needs to know that we are not saying that Liberia will not export. But we?re saying that the illegal leakages is what we are concerned about,? Bropleh said.