11 February 2014

Gambia: Impact of Border Restrictions On the Vegetable Trade

Most of the vegetables such as carrots, onions, bitter tomatoes, garden eggs, spices etc that people buy from the major markets in Banjul and the Kombos are said to be imported by traders from the neighbouring republic of Senegal. This trade, which supplies the local markets with vegetables for household consumption as well as the tourism or hospitality industry, is reported to have been affected by the current impasse at the Gambia-Senegal borders as vehicles are not allowed to cross to either side.

These restrictions, however, have implications on the vegetable trade and consumers in terms of transport cost and prices. Sira Camara, a resident of Sukuta and an importer of vegetables from Senegal, said the closure of the Gambia-Senegal border which has been going on for more than a month now is really creating some difficulties each time they go to Senegal to buy and bring vegetables into the country.

She explained that had it not been the fact that they depend entirely on this trade for the livelihood of their families and the education of their children, some of them would have abandoned it for something else that have less hassle and cost as they are now encountering a lot of problems when bringing goods from Senegal into the country.

Sira explained that before the present restriction were introduced, they used to pay only once from the point of collection in Senegal straight to the Gambia; but now the situation forces them to hire a vehicle from Senegal up to the Amdalie-Karang border where they offload their goods and put them on another vehicle to bring into the Gambia.

This, she said, has extra cost implications."If we include these extra costs on the price of the vegetable for the consumer, some of the customers may understand but the others would not," she said.

According to Sira, the situation may be a bit better in two weeks time as the vegetables such as cabbages and onions from the Bakau and Badibou women gardens will be ripe and flooding the markets.

She added that it will only be carrot which is not produced locally that they will continue to import during this period. She therefore called on the authorities of the two states to sit down and dialogue with a view to finding a remedy for this current situation at the borders and thus address the socio-economic implications that directly result from the border restrictions.

Another trader, Awa Ceesay, also explained her experience when she was bringing vegetables from Senegal and describing it as a nightmare unlike before. She also called on the two states to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

She made this statement while on her way back to Senegal to brink vegetables. She said the authorities need to try and open the border because these two countries cannot go without each other. She said those of them that are frequent in Senegal experience lots of harassment from some Senegalese people who are blaming the Gambia for been responsible for the border closure.

She said who so ever is responsible, the two countries should come together to find a sustainable solution for the interests of their own people. Kaddy Camara, a vegetable seller who buys from traders and sell retail at the Serekunda Market, said the border restriction has also affected her as the prices are always on the increase.

"My customers are always complaining about the increment in prices, but this is beyond my control as it is the traders who determine the increase based on how much cost they have incurred when bringing the vegetables from Senegal," she explained.

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