27 December 2012

Gambia: Secco Presidents Complain of Losing Customers to Private Buyers the Uncertainties of the Groundnut Trade

The 2012/2013 Groundnut Trade Season has been described by some Secco (buying points) presidents as very challenging as they face problems posed by both the private dealers and the cross border sale of nuts by the farmers which are seriously affecting their operations.

Speaking recently to this reporter at Bansang, in the Upper Fulladu West District of Central River Region (CRR), Ebrima Jallow, the Secco President, explained that the private dealers in the groundnut business are offering a better price to the farmers in addition to collecting their groundnuts directly from the farms to save them from expenditure on transportation.

Mr. Jallow said these private dealers also travel with their own bags and horse or donkey carts from one destination to the other to buy groundnuts from the farmers. He said this situation among many other incentives provided by others prevent farmers from selling to the Cooperative Marketing Societies.

Giving an example, he said a private dealer can buy one bag of g/nuts at a price of D950.00 while for them the maximum they can offer per bag is D700.00.

He added that another disadvantage against them posed by this new development is that the private dealers are also going around with their own bags to buy the produce of the farmers at their farms without screening, whilst with them it is the farmers who provide their own bags and their produce is subjected to screening and payment of transportation.

Mr. Jallow said they have enough money to buy the nuts in cash and without any credit buying but the farmers are still not responding as they used to do in previous years.

He disclosed that up to the time of speaking to this reporter in Bansang on Saturday, 22nd December 2012, his Secco had only purchased 20 tonnes of groundnut which, according to him, used to be the purchased of groundnuts in one or two day transaction.

Bafoday Jawla, the Bansang Secco Manager, for his part, described their present work at the Secco as sit down as they have little work to do since the farmers are not bringing their groundnuts to them.

Visiting the Kerewan Secco in Lower Baddibu in North Bank Region, on Sunday, 23rd December 2012, the President, Fodayba Minteh, disclosed that the cross border selling of groundnuts by the farmers in neighbouring Senegal is causing them serious problems in their operations. He said the farmers compare the rate of foreign exchange of the Gambian dalasi to the CFA Franc and would prefer taking and selling their produce across the border in order get the CFA which gives them more money when they change it.

Mr. Minteh disclosed that his Secco is being run by Great Future Enterprises which is offering farmer's D12,000 per metric tonne. He said so far they have transited only 30 tonnes of g/nuts to Essau.

He also lamented the situation of low harvest or not having enough nuts to sell and citing the lack of enough groundnuts seeds for many farmers during the last rainy season as a contributing factor to the low yields.

Asked how this perennial problem of lack of enough seeds is to be solved and whether there are plans for its remedy, Minteh said this is one of the reasons why they are calling on farmers to take their nuts to their Secco as it is part of their plan to give both seeds and fertilizer to farmers in the coming rainy season to boost their harvest. He said they have realised that fertilizer should be made available, affordable and timely to the farmers in order for them to get good crop yields.

The Kerewan Secco president therefore called on farmers to take their groundnuts to the Seccos as they are not buying on credit basis and are also providing bags to those farmers who demand for it and would sell their nuts to them at the Secco.

For his part, Karamo Marena, a farmer explained that there was enough rainfall this year but with poor harvest of crops. He said the people were talking about bumper harvest but the harvest came out to be different because many farmers were not provided with seeds and fertilizer which led to the poor performance of the crops.

Marena said in the previous years he used to harvest more that 40 bags of groundnuts, but for last year's season he could only harvest 6 bags while for this year he only harvested 8 bags with the same acreage. He therefore disputed the claims of a bumper harvest in groundnut production in the country and urged for a proper survey to be done to get the clear picture.

Farmers in both CRR and NBR who talked to this reporter have indicated their desire to sell their groundnuts either to the private buyers coming to them or across the border in Senegal in order to get a better price for their produce. They also indicated that the price being offered at the Secco level is not competitive, adding that the prices of basic commodities are expensive as well as the cost of education of their children and other family needs are getting higher. They also acknowledged the lack of seed nuts and fertilizer as the greatest challenge that is causing a serious setback to agricultural productivity especially of cash crops such as groundnuts.

The farmers are therefore united in their call for the authorities and other stakeholders to look into these issues and provide immediate solutions to put a stop to these perennial problems which they face every year.

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