By Alagie Manneh
Local poultry producers have met with other stakeholders last week to debate whether The Gambia should cease the importation of poultry products in place of local products.
Held at the Ebunjan Theatre, the night debate was organised by the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) with various debaters, arguing for and against the motion. The objective was to provoke a national opinion on whether or not The Gambia should place a moratorium on the importation of poultry products in the country, in a bid to stimulate economic growth and job creation, according to Etheine Silva, the spokesperson of the Authority.
Michael Mendy, a poultry grower, spoke for the motion. He said that The Gambia should learn from many other countries who proscribed the importation of poultry products for the actualisation of their citizens.
“I know that The Gambia is part of WTO [World Trade Organisation] and the Ecowas which talks about free movement of persons, goods and services, but Senegal has done it [a ban on poultry products]. Once they did that, investors saw an opportunity and invested. Today, Senegal is not only supplying The Gambia in terms of poultry products, but they are supplying other neighbours. So it [a ban on poultry importation] is something we should think about in the very near future.
“You cannot import any poultry products nor dairy products into The Netherlands, yet they are a member of the WTO. Every country has to protect its local industry if they want to stimulate economic growth. For us to stimulate our economic growth, we have to protect the local industry and production will increase,” he argued.
Also for the motion, Gambia Standard Bureau’s Saikou Drammeh draw the attention of the audience to the country’s rising entrepreneurs, submitting that they are more than capable of meeting the demand on poultry products if a ban is instituted.
“There is no doubt,” he emphasised. He said that the poultry producer Empas alone can meet close to half of the country’s poultry demands.
He explained: “The Gambia needs about two million poultry products in a month. Empas produced around a million. In addition to other poultry producers, if you sum their quantities up, local poultry producers will be able to meet the demand for poultry products in the country.”
Mr Drammeh continued to argue that “every poultry product that is imported is a job loss to the country. Looking at our poultry industry, we have poultry producers who have the potential to meet our demand. So, if we have other products coming from other countries replacing our local products, that will create a job loss for our local producers.
“If importation of poultry products is ceased, the issue of unemployment will be addressed because you will have people with the capacity, means and knowledge to venture into poultry production and create jobs for themselves and others. If importation of poultry products is banned, it is going to create income for locals and alleviate poverty.”
Against the motion, Musa Nget of the School of Public Health, submitted: “My co-debaters base their argument on mere assumptions, but not on facts. We believe that before you place a ban you must do a situational analysis of that particular issue… are we technologically oriented or equipped to ban the importation of poultry products in The Gambia? How many Gambians are into poultry production and how many Gambians have the required knowledge on how to manage a poultry? And what is the food self-sufficiency ratio of The Gambia? If that is not done or researched, I see no reason why we should be here backing a ban on poultry products in The Gambia. We cannot just jump to conclusions and call for a ban on poultry importation without any evidence-based argument.”
Pauline Gibba, FSQA, rhetorically asked her co-debaters and said: “For someone that is seeking employment to earn an income, you want to tell me that a ban on poultry products is now going to create an avenue for employment, how is this possible? That is not the solution to the issue of unemployment among the youths. My co-debater said that eggs are a good source of protein, but my point is that the number of eggs The Gambia consumes is so much that a ban on the importation of poultry products, inclusive of eggs will lead to insufficiency because the local producers cannot supply the market with sufficient or enough eggs.”