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Gambia Agric Minister Calls for Increasing Investments in Agriculture

The minister of Agriculture has said The Gambia needs to be more innovative and open up to private investors. He made his comments yesterday during the International Agriculture Forum. He said that creating an atmosphere conducive for business means looking at specific tax laws for agriculture and special investment certificates offered by GIEPA, under the Ministry of Trade.

He added that financial institutions and investors need to be comfortable investing in the sector, which he said means understanding the fundamentals of agricultural production and how that can impact the kinds of decisions made.

He continued saying, that they also need these financial institutions to develop targeted products for particular sectors and that farmers, and actors in the agricultural value-chain, also need to understand and appreciate the way financial institutions operate and where their responsibilities lie.

“There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding agriculture; that it is risky and that farmers aren’t credit-worthy,” he said.

Minister Jallow emphasised that financial institutions, as well as farmer/producer organizations and other agricultural organizations are in the best position to identify the financial needs of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders in a climate-smart, agriculture, value-chain system targeted at improving the sector.

He underscored the importance of agriculture to the socio-economic health of The Gambia and said that it should follow that the government needs to invest heavily in the sector.

He encouraged the private sector, especially the financial sector, to recognize the importance of agricultural financing. Hon. Jallow applauded the government for its long term investment strategy in the sector, without the expectation of return on the investment in the short term.

He went on to note that agricultural growth and performance has been fluctuating over the decades partly due to the predominance of subsistence, rain-fed agriculture for food crop production like millet, maize and rice, semi-intensive cash crop production like groundnuts, cotton and horticulture and traditional livestock rearing with little diversification and value addition.

He added that the GNAIP considers the need to transform the agriculture and national resource sectors from subsistence to a more commercial orientation focusing on the smallholders as the main pathway to sustainable development, as a national priority.

“This should have been achieved by capitalizing and accelerating growth in potentially fast growing subsectors such as horticulture and coarse grains and by increasing rice productivity for enhanced food security, income generation and import substitution,” he emphasised.

The agricultural sector is the most important sector of the Gambian economy, contributing 32% of the gross domestic product, providing employment and income for 80% of the population, and accounting for 70% of the country's foreign exchange earnings. It remains the prime sector to raise income levels, for investments, to improve food security and reduce levels of poverty. 

The main cash crop of The Gambia is groundnuts. The country is primarily a agricultural country with 80 percent of the population of just over 2 million depending on agriculture for its food and cash income. The farming economy is the only means of income creation for the majority of rural families most whom live below the poverty line.
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