Concord Times (Freetown)

Sierra Leone: MPs Question Billions Spent On Rice Import for Army and Police

An opposition lawmaker from Pujehun district has said that despite huge sums of money expended on agriculture little result has been achieved, as is evident by the fact that the government still procures imported rice to supply members of the security forces.

Hon. Senesie Fawundu revealed that both the previous and current ruling governments have spent astronomical sums of money on agriculture, and that by 2014 the amount allocated to the sector will be Le32 billion, while the welfare of farmers remains abysmal.

Hon. Fawundu said agriculture is a key development sector that could transform the lives of the country's unemployed youth, and that if monies appropriated to the sector were not prudently expended, the socio-economic wellbeing of farmers and youth would remain bleak.

He said that roads leading to provincial towns and cities are in a deplorable condition and urged government to expedite their construction and maintenance. He also called for a ban on imported rice from China and India, a move he said would encourage an increase in local rice production and marketing.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security should focus on providing loans to local farmers, build farmers' capacity and establish more community banks, as well as facilitate the purchase of rice from local farmers for supply to the police and army. He said such policy shift could create jobs for youth and boost the country's foreign exchange earnings by cutting down on rice imports.

Also, Hon. Paramount Chief Fasuluku Sonsiama said that the Le36.7 billion spent on rice procurement for the police and army was too exorbitant and that the money should be used to produce rice locally.

He said billions of Leones have been spent on road construction in the country even though the roads are still deplorable in most parts of the country. He said a viable solution to the lapses could be effective monitoring and supervision.

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