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Plant Health Protection Bill in the Offing

Jul 21, 2008, 8:14 AM | Article By: By Abba A.S. Gibba

The Plant Health Protection Act, an Act to make provision for the proper management of plant health in order to minimise trade barriers to products from The Gambia, is likely to come soon.

The Act seeks to regulate imports of plant materials and provide appropriate measures for the control of pests in the country and facilitate trade in plants and plant products.

The draft of the bill was last Wednesday reviewed by stakeholders at a one day seminar organised by the National Agriculture Development Agency (NADA) at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) funded the seminar, within a broad project, entitled "Strengthening the National Phytosanitary Capabilities" of The Gambia.

This bill, if passed, will replace the 'Prevention of Damage by Pests Act, of 1962 and the Plant Importation and Regulations Act, of 1966.

These acts, according to Dr. Nestor Shivute Acting FAO Representative, are no longer meeting the requirements of the trading partners of The Gambia today.

He elucidated that the proposed act seeks to set The Gambia on the path to modernity in terms of plant protection, to enable the country to take its rightful place in the world of exporters of plants, fruits and vegetables.

He added that many developing countries face enormous challenges in meeting food standards in external markets, notably in developed countries.

 He noted that those countries need much technical expertise to take advantage of trading opportunities.

"New markets for agricultural products would increase national revenue and enhance our ability to buy what we don't grow. New markets also serve as an incentive to farmers who continue to experience high post harvest loses," he said.

He revealed that the agriculture sector is the mainstay of the economy of The Gambia, providing employment to almost 70% of the labour force, generating over 60% of household incomes and responsible for about 25% of GDP.

"Despite the importance of agriculture to the economy, export of agricultural products has been constrained by stringent directives from The Gambia's trading partners on the importation of foreign pests," he noted.