Farmers in Ngoketunjia Division, Northwest Province, recently voiced their disgruntlement at the continuous consumption of imported rice in the country. They said the practice has a negative effect on the cultivation of the grain locally.
The farmers made the complaint, Tuesday, July 19 at a working session with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Clobert Tchatat, who was on a visit.
They also raised problems of the negative effects of the Bamendjim Dam especially on health, non-compensation of those who were displaced, corruption in the rural agricultural sector, rural electrification and financing of farmers' activities.
They appealed to government to restructure the lone agro-industrial complex in the Ndop locality in order to facilitate increased production and purchase of rice.
But Minister Tchatat blamed the situation of rice importation on Cameroonians.
"It is not the government that imports but Cameroonians who eat the rice," he said, disclosing that over 300.000 tons of the grain is imported into the country. He argued that the economy has been liberalised with people preferring to eat imported rice instead of locally grown plantains, rice or maize.
"We can't stop people from importing or ask them to import," Tchatat said, explaining that it is the market forces that determine the continuous importation.
The Minister, however, urged the farmers to increase their production of rice and other produce with quality so as to be able to feed, "Ourselves and our neighbours who depend on us for their food products".
He said in order to achieve this objective, his ministry is working hard towards the reduction of prices of farm inputs such as fertilizers and insecticides.
Tchatat appealed to farmers to organise themselves into groups in order to benefit from services rendered by his ministry.
He said his ministry had a special programme for youths intended to fight unemployment in the rural areas and discourage rural exodus.
Also speaking at the working session was former Transport Minister and General Manager of MIDENO John B. Ndeh, who explained the role of his organisation and GP- DERUDEP. He stressed on the difficulties faced by the agricultural funding agencies such as the defunct FONADER, Credit Agricole and today's FIMAC.
He said farmers were responsible for the demise of these institutions, as they have refused to pay back the revolving funds.
Earlier on a guided tour, the Minister and his entourage had visited the Upper Nun Valley Development Authority, UNVDA, Complex, the Ndop rice fields and a farmers' common initiative group, CIG, in Babungo.