Stakeholders drawn from different sectors on Wednesday converged to validate the Quality Assurance Framework draft document for cashew nut and sesame at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), along the Bertil Harding Highway.
The forum, which was funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Trust Fund, is jointly organised by the EIF programme under the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE), and the International Trade Centre towards implementing of the 'Sector Competitiveness and Export Diversification' project.
The first draft of the Quality Assurance Framework was developed and reviewed by the Quality Assurance task force. A second draft was then developed which needed to be reviewed and validated by stakeholders on a wider scope.
The Quality Assurance Framework for food products is an integrated risk-based proactive approach consisted of good practices, concepts, food safety management systems and national quality policy, encompassing the commitment of all the concerned stakeholders.
According to findings, cashew nut was introduced in The Gambia in the 1960s and was originally intended as a firebreak surrounding forest areas.
With the groundnut sector being subjected to recurrent fluctuations, the cashew nut sector appear to be the most promising source of export diversification at present and exports have increased markedly in recent years, although there level remains small.
Cashew production as a cash crop has increased significantly since 2000, especially for small farms in the West Coast and North Bank Regions.
In the area of sesame, findings have shown that sesame production in The Gambia is estimated at about 1000 tonnes per year; though this is probably conservative, that much is never sold beyond the immediate growing areas.
Sesame is cultivated on a fairly large scale on the president's farms at Kanilai, primarily with the aim of seed multiplication for distribution. The findings have also indicated that the sesame grown in The Gambia is of mixed color, with relatively small seeds. It is most suitable for oil production and the oil content is said to be between 51-52 percent.
During the interface, there was a presentation of the Quality Assurance Framework document by Dr. Bruno Doko, an international consultant, which was followed by discussion and reviewing of the document.
Speaking at the event, Bai Ibrahima Jobe, EIF coordinator, said that food control is essential to ensure food security, public health. This he noted is in fulfillment of their exporting diversification drive as envisaged by the project.
According to him, the importance of quality cannot be over emphasised; for the fact that the leading strategy to indicate or demonstrate safety and quality in the food chain is the implementation of a very efficient and effective Quality Assurance Framework.
The international consultant, according to Jobe, has done a lot in the document, while thanking him for the good work.
For his part, Khewaj Ramful, the senior adviser at the International Trade Centre, thanked the participants for attending the workshop. He called on them to work together for the successful implementation of the project.