The Minister of Finance, Hon. Abdou Kolley has countered the claimed by Hon Sidia Jatta, National Assembly Member for Wuli West, who said there is no growth in the agricultural sector in 2010 because the 2011 budget statement has it that national output from crops, livestock, forestry and fishing activities is projected to grow by 4.6% in 2010 compared to a growth of 9.8% in 2009.
“To me there is no growth, there is downward trend because in 2009 agricultural growth was 9.8% and 2010 it was 4.6%, so if I understand this statistic, agriculture is going downwards, it is not going upwards,” Hon. Sidia Jatta said at the National Assembly in Banjul during the adjournment debate on the 2011 budget statement.
The Finance Minister, Hon Abdou Kolley, in response, said when you look at growth from one year to another, to say that because in the previous year you have 9.8% growth and this year you have 4.8%, so there is no growth, “I disagree with that analysis”.
“You can say yes, there is growth but at a lesser pace compared to the previous year why because if you look at agriculture from where we were coming from, we had several years of drought and low agricultural production as a result, then come 2008 and 2009 with good rain and bumper harvest, so we had a big jump in agricultural production and growth, once you have a jump in agricultural productivity and growth, the subsequent years will not be that significant because you are already at a solid base and moving forward, that those not mean there is no growth,” Hon said.
Gov’t calls for private sector participation in agriculture
The Gambia Government has called for greater participation of the private sector in agriculture saying that agriculture should not be seen as a part time business activity but a real time business venture that can generate wealth and income just like any other business.
Hon. Kolley said the private sector should invest in productive sectors of the economy like agriculture, which would eventually bring about a structural transformation of the economy given the contribution the agricultural sector makes in terms of creating employment, raising farmers’ incomes, improving food security, increasing foreign exchange earnings and tax revenue.
Hon. Kolley was responding to concerns raised by the National Assembly Members that despite many resources been devoted to the agricultural sector yet still the expected impact is not been felt.
The Finance Minister said government cannot do it all alone, the private sector should also come forward and invest in agriculture. He said provisioning of farm implements and fertilizer is among the many areas that the private sector can invest into, as the government is moving towards the commercialization of agriculture.
“We all know that the current form of agriculture, which is subsistent and rain feed agriculture will not and is not the solution to our agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture is cognizant of this and this has been adequately highlighted in the GNAIP and the main thrust of that Program is the move towards the commercialization of agriculture and greater involvement of the private sector,” Hon. Kolley said.
He said the Gambia National Agricultural Investment Programme (GNAIP) if successfully implemented will go a long in modernizing the agricultural sector so that it will be able to contribute the desired level as expected by all. “It is also in this drive the government has decided to increase the funding to the sector to help the sector in meeting most of its requirements or objectives.”
The government has doubled the budget allocation to the agricultural sector from 3 percent in 2010 to 6 percent in 2011.