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Gov’t ceases groundnut buying, allows private operators

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By Tabora Bojang

Agriculture Minister Demba Sabally has informed lawmakers that the government has now ceased groundnut buying from farmers and also waived its policy for all exporters to be issued a licence to enable them export groundnut.

“We have invested over D1.5 billion [buying groundnut]. That is unprecedented. At this moment we would not be able to continue buying. Since there are individuals that may be having groundnuts unsold, we are allowing them to sell to any private buyers and we are also waiving our policy for [private buyers] to get a permit. If they [farmers] choose to get their groundnuts across the border, they are allowed to do so,” Minister Sabally told NAMs in response to their concerns that some farmers are still unable to sell their nuts despite most seccos having closed now.

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When the groundnut trade season began in November last year, the Ministry of Agriculture instructed the IGP to arrest individuals found wanting in exporting groundnut without following due process. This decision was meant to stem declining groundnut exports in The Gambia and boost the local value chain.

But during yesterday’s question and answer session with cabinet ministers, several NAMs expressed concern that some farmers in their constituencies are yet to sell all their groundnuts, while others who took their produce to the buying centres are yet to receive their payments.

The minister maintained that every farmer owed money is paid through the cooperative societies.

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“All cooperative societies have been paid 100 percent. I advise those farmers to go back to their presidents to find a way to receive their money.”

Asked if the government had conducted any assessment to know the availability of groundnut in the country and what government’s buying capacity was, before coming up with a policy restricting free buying and selling, the minister said: “Yes, we have made an assessment and that is what necessitated our decision [to restrict buying].  Our position is that we have purchased all the groundnuts that we could have purchased and we do not have the capacity to continue buying. Farmers had ample opportunities to sell given that the selling period was from December to February.  We had over 80 buying points across the country. Our assessment was that by now, every farmer would have had the opportunity to sell their nuts,” Sabally stated.

Asked if the ministry is also doing assessment to understand the magnitude of groundnut left with farmers unsold, Minister Sabally replied: “There is no way we can assess the amount of groundnut left. We can’t tell if these [remaining products] are locally grown or were brought across the border to take advantage of the existing prices.”

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