By Omar Bah
The director general of the Gambia Food, Processing and Marketing Corporation, formerly GGC, Mohamodou Njie has said his office will engage farmers on this year’s groundnut season before announcing the sell price.
In 2020, the government initially announced the price of groundnut at D18, 000 per ton before increasing it to D22, 000 after farmers complained that private Senegalese operators were offering better prices.
But speaking in a Standard exclusive last week, DG Njie said: “This year, we plan to meet all the farmers before the season starts to hear from them in terms of their expectations. If we gather all their thoughts, we will be able to know how to go about the groundnut price.”
DG Njie said government is working very hard to ensure that “there will be no credit buying just like last year”. However, he said the buying system that the corporation introduced last year will remain.
Under the new system introduced last year, secco managers’ role stops at weighing and recording the weight, quantity and the price of the groundnuts presented at the seccos as well as issuing a payment voucher.
These vouchers are then presented by the farmer to an AGIB cashier who would pay the farmer directly or through Q-money.
According to the GGC, the new method will eradicate revenue leakages or shortages and ensure transparency.
DG Njie said the corporation will improve the service this year to increase smooth transactions for farmers.
DG Njie said the GGC has undergone a series of transformations since he took over.
“When I came, I inherited a huge debt mainly because of non-payment of credits that were offered to farmers, corporative and even private traders because the corporation was lending directly despite not being a lending institution and the challenge in terms of capacity was a very big problem. There was no audit department which was a very big risk for fraud. What we did when we came was to establish an audit department and changed some of the business models like the sale of fertilizer and groundnut buying,” he said.
Njie said the corporation has now sorted out all its debts.
“We also automated most of our processes and we are still exploring especially in the areas of public and private partnership. Change is always difficult but it is about the mindset,” he said.
He said the corporation’s international partners have started recommending their model to other East African countries.
He said GGC has observed low groundnut productions due to rural-urban migration and because some farmers have converted from groundnut to cashew farming or other types of crops. “Now we want to expand to cashew and other crops,” he said.
Oil refining plant
He further revealed that they have engaged an American consultancy firm to do a feasibility study to have a cooking oil refining plant in The Gambia. “The document is out and the investment cost of that plant is about $10.4 million. The study shows that it is viable and the next point is to secure the funding and implement it. We are engaging with private companies with regard to that acceptance,” he noted.
Njie said when he came the corporation was importing 7, 500 metric tons of fertilizer but that has been increased to 11, 000 metric tons and 20,000 tons this year.
“We are now talking to private partners that will, even if not manufacture fertilizer here, bag it locally in the country. We are hopeful that something will happen very soon,” he said.
Reacting to reports of Gambian fertilizer being illegally transported outside the country, DG Njie said: “The GGC has engaged the police and GRA in ensuring that they work closely to ensure that such doesn’t repeat in the future.”
He urged Gambian farmers to sell their nuts to the GGC to avoid running the country into serious losses.