The beginning of the groundnut trade season is again upon us and as was last year, GGC is at a disadvantage which is none of their making. They simply cannot compete with the private sector on pricing and until Government concludes a preferential trade agreement with China, this situation will continue yearly.
Buyers in Senegal who are mainly Chinese are camped in Senegal because of the duty-free agreement in place between Senegal and China. As a result of the agreement, exports from Senegal are cheaper than exports from Gambia and therefore the ability of the Senegalese buyer to offer a higher price. The question one should be asking is why are we unable to conclude such an agreement with the Chinese even though we are told discussions are taking place the past three years.
On the current season, it is unwise, unenforceable and not reflective of the greater good to try and force farmers to sell to the GGC at the price of GMD20.70 per kg when the private sector is offering up to GMD25 per kg. Farmers should be free to sell to whoever they wish to and buyers should be able to offload their purchase even if it means selling to the Chinese in Senegal. It is ironic that one periodically laments the lack of inter Africa trade and here is an opportunity for Gambian traders to trade with their Senegalese counterparts but it is frowned upon because of the desire to protect a national institution (GGC) that is not up to the game due to the structural deficiencies caused by Government’s inability to conclude a trade agreement.
The argument that Gambian farmers are supported through fertilizer subsidy does not mean they should sell their produce to the lowest bidder. As a matter of fact, with a price difference of more than D4 per kg, the subsidy of GMD500 per bag turns the table on its head and does not hold water.
Given the current situation, the Government should focus on levelling the playing field with Senegal to make the Gambia attractive to the Chinese buyers. Most buyers would tell you they would rather ship from Banjul but that is if the trading terms are equally attractive as is the current situation with Senegal.
Until the field is level, the private sector should be encouraged to buy high from the farmers and be allowed to sell their stock across the border so long as it is decorticated. Government should be seen to encourage this and not to spend our meagre police resources to try to enforce a ban in a very porous border.
Metty Trading Company Limited