Ceesay, a representative of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs has
disclosed that The Gambia earned 80 million U.S. Dollars in the tourism last
year, saying a total of 74 million U.S. Dollars was spent to import rice in the
Ceesay was speaking at the start of two-day stakeholders consultation forum on Regional Rice Value Chain Development Program held at a hotel in Kololi. The forum is a step towards the funding of Mega Rice Development Project in The Gambia by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) with co-financing from the Africa Development Bank (AfDB).
“Therefore, this indicates that increased in rice production would not only ensure food security, but also go a long way in ensuring macro-economic stability including stability of the national currency,” she added.
He acknowledged that it is no secret that rice is the country’s staple food and records have it that on average every Gambian consumes 117kg per annum. This, he added, is far above the world average of 56.9kg per annum.
“However, while we consume that much rice, our national rice production is just about 17% of our needs leaving us to import more than 80% of our rice needs. The dependency on imports to meet the national rice deficit, in no doubt continues to dispose the food security situation in The Gambia to the vulnerability of volatile global market trends and also depletes our foreign exchange reserves,” he added.
With observed trends in the decline of rice production in the country over the years, she urged the consultants to leave no stone unturned in the first step towards solving the country’s rice needs as this forum presents those opportunities.
Ken Johm, a representative from AFDB, described the meeting as very timely and important since rice stands out as a key commodity in many national strategies for food security since the soaring food prices crises in 2006-2008.
“The substantial land and fresh water resources in The Gambia presents huge untapped resources within the rice value chain, which can be harnessed for economic development,” he added.
The rice sector, he said, has the potential to become an engine for economic growth and development across the country, contributing to eliminating extreme poverty and food insecurity, thereby creating employment opportunities, especially for women and the youth entering job markets.
Momodou L. Ceesay, a representative of IsDB, emphasised that majority of IDB member countries in sub-Saharan Africa have set themselves the goal of increasing domestic rice production so that they can avoid being dependent on importers.
“Because the IDB has received official request from many of member countries in the continent and others have indicated their interest to collaborate with the bank in realising its objective,” he said.
Ceesay disclosed that the programme beneficiary countries include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
“The initial estimated investment of the program is USD 300 million of which IDB is expected to finance USD175 million through the Lives and Livelihood Fund (LLF) that includes 30% grant component; USD 25 million from the contributions from the 10 beneficiary countries; USD 100 million from development partners the target direct beneficiaries are two million households. The objective is to develop effective and profit oriented National and Regional Rice Value, Chain enterprises with strong private sector participation and it will invest in infrastructure development, research and development/Science and Technology, Development of Value Chains, capacity building to enhance the enabling policy environment,” he added.