Wednesday, April 30, 2014

‘Gambia can produce over 2M tonnes of rice annually’

President Jammeh

The Gambia has the potential to produce more than two million tonnes of rice annually, ten times more than what is required, if all the rice fields visited are developed, the president of the Republic has disclosed.

Speaking Monday during visits to rice fields in the Lower River Region (LRR), as part of his ongoing “Vision 2016 rice self-sufficiency tour,” His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh said his government is exploring all avenues to make sure that the country stops food importation and engage in full export in the next 10 years.

 “I can see that even the Central River Region (CRR) alone the potentials are there and when you go to Fatoto coming down and even beyond, we can produce millions of tonnes of rice and other cereals in this country. After so many years of being a net importer of food items, we will become one of the biggest exporters of rice in five years time. We must achieve that,” he stressed.

Words to private sector
As part of efforts towards meeting this objective, the Gambian leader disclosed plans by his government to create a company that will be responsible for most of these fields. The government, he said, will no longer entertain the smallholder type of agriculture as part of efforts to making the nation a major exporter of rice.

 “My objective is for agriculture to be all all-year-round affair. What I want is to have all-year-round rice production like I have in Kanilai. So it is going to be harvesting all year round,” he assured. The government, he said, will transform vast lands that are not being utilised into productive sites for the development of the sector.

The Gambian leader also stressed the need for agricultural diversification, stressing that the country’s food source must not only be centered on rice, but other varieties in order to enhance nutrition.

“Be it corn, cassava, beans and even fruit trees, I see no reason why The Gambia cannot be a major producer of coconut because in certain areas where the water is brackish, are the ideal place for coconut plantation. Of course why not become a major producer of palm oil? So we can turn some of these fields into great palm tree plantations like Malaysia,” he noted. 

Budget allocations
The Gambian leader spoke of his government’s commitment to increase budgetary allocations to agriculture once construction of certain major roads are completed.

“The constructions of major roads have almost been finished except for Laminkoto-Passimas and Basse-Vellingara. For that of Laminkoto-Passimas, we are just at the implementation stage and once all these are fixed, the bulk of the funds from the government [the budget] will be geared towards agricultural production,” he disclosed.

Visit to Jarra Sutukung and Jappineh
Meanwhile, the Gambian leader earlier visited other vast lands in Jarra Sutukung and Jappineh, all in the LRR to see for himself the potentials of rice cultivation in these areas. Like in many of the other fields visited, President Jammeh assured these rural dwellers of better rice cultivation, but hastened to challenge them to make use of the vast endowed natural resources at their disposal. 

“This is the only way any country can stand on its own and end the decades-long dependency on foreign aid,” he concluded.
Author: Musa Ndow & Amadou Jallow on tour

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