By Omar Bah
Omar Amadou Jallow, OJ, the Minister of Agriculture has said that there is a lot of misrepresentation of facts surrounding the sales of groundnut this year.
Mr Jallow made this clarification to The Standard after some farmers complained that they could not sell their nuts to Senegalese private buyers and companies because they are not coming while the national buyers, Gambia Groundnut Corporation, could not buy their nuts.
“It is not necessary farmers that have not been able to sell their groundnuts. It is traders who bought groundnuts from farmers and could not sell it to the GGC who are the ones making noise and that should be made very clear,” he said.
The GGC, he said, is the main buying agent of groundnut in this country “since Yahya Jammeh destroyed the then corporative movement. Therefore people should know the process that is on the ground.”
“The GGC has their own agents whiles the Indians and the Chinese have theirs. Some agents bought nuts thinking the Chinese and the Indians will come to buy from them but unfortunately they did not come this year,” he clarified.
OJ said the GGC was allocated USD13.8 from the IDB “because from the previous seasons Gambia has never bought more than 3000 tons. But this time in December alone GGC bought 4234 tons and because of the competitive price that we have made with Senegal, there are a lot of nuts coming from Senegal in the country.”
Mr Jallow said his office through the ministry of finance has contacted the IDB for them to give GGC extra funds, and they have approved USD 3.5 Million. He said that money will be used to buy all the nuts that people are quarrelling about which was not fault of the state agent. This is the situation.”
On another urgent matter raised by farmers, fertilizer, the agriculture minister said: “Fortunately there is fertilizer on sale in the country already at the rate of D700 per bag…. and there is still months before the raining season starts and more fertilizer would be coming before the end of April.”
Jallow said the government received a million dollar from the IDB to buy seeds and before the end of April, all the needed seeds in the country would be available.
“This is just to say that all the problems last year was due to the impasse and because all of our partners including the IDB froze our funds and those funds were only defreezed by the end of February,” he stated.
On whether he was responsible for the demise of Corporative Union when he was Minister under Jawara, OJ said: “Fortunately I am a corporative product. My first job when I left school in 1966 was to go to the corporative training school and I was appointed as an inspector and I spent seven years in the corporative union .
“Because corporative was the main institution through which government and all donor institutions channel their assistance to farmers in the areas of seedlings, fertilizer, equipment and even cash and really at that time, the corporative union made sure the recovery rate was at least 70% or more from farmers….But unfortunately there is no perfect institution.”
He continued: “When I was there I saw there was a lot of corruption and other things happening there and after conducting a thorough investigation, I advised President Jawara to set up a commission of inquiry. We set up a commission of inquiry made up of Williams who was a judge here sent by the Commonwealth from Sierra Leone, MI Secka and Sulayman Masanneh Ceesay.
“Unfortunately the coup took place but they allowed the commission to continue. But I suspended all the management of the corporative at that time until the commission is done just to make sure we rectify the wrongs of the corporative and put more sanity in it.”
OJ further stressed: “After the coup I was among the people they took to the commission, but after keeping me there from 9 to 4PM they allowed me to go home and later apologised to me.”
“We have been buying 3000 tons or less for the past five years of groundnut. This year as I am talking to you, we have bought over 40, 000 tons. Rice production is also going up…We are also sponsoring over sixty gardens free of charge. We are also going into small ruminants.
“Our new project is going to set up 100 groups of people and I have given instruction that 80% of that would be given to women and each group will be given 30 rams to bring up. We are also sponsoring lot of young people in the areas of poultry by giving them 1000 chickens on grants.
“We are importing millions of dollars of poultry products, millions of dollars of meat products, millions of dollars of horticultural products which we can produce in the Gambia….In the first republic we have never imported horticultural products; instead we were exporting 90 tons every Thursday from Gambia.