Thursday, January 21, 2016

Is the Food Security Corporation operating illegally?

Groundnut processing at Denton Bridge
We have been able to confirm that Jammeh has proceeded to establish the National Food Security Corporation (NFSC) as part of his ill-fated Vision 2016 which sets a national goal of rice self-sufficiency by December 2016 - a deadline that has come and gone, leaving food-deficit Gambia more rice deficit today than when the V-2015 was inaugurated over two years ago.

The new deadline for the banning of rice importation has been moved to next September when there would have been sufficient increase in local rice production to make up for the 120,000 - 140,000-ton deficit (depending on which source you use). Assuming that the rice consumption pattern is the same as in 2013, The Gambia will still need to import $ 50 million worth of rice to make up for the deficit.

Initially, Jammeh envisaged the NFSC to take ownership of all "excess arable land" currently under traditional tenure system.  His former Secretary General and Minister of Presidential Affairs made the announcement at the start of the Dialogue with the People Tour in April 2014.

He justified establishing the Food Security Corporation because of the high failure rates of previous agriculture projects which he attributed to the "mercy syndrome" precipitated by external donors that resulted in persistent "hunger and poverty".  By the time Jammeh and his entourage reached the halfway point of his tour, the NFSC as a concept up to this point - because no known blueprint or appraisal report confirming the economic, financial/and business viability exist - the idea has morphed into, what appeared to be more of a confiscatory scheme.

In explaining the NFSC to Sapu and Boiram farmers, he said the new entity is anchored firmly on his Vision 2016, rice self-sufficiency program.  He went further to say the following: " If you are developing 1,000 hectares, the NFSC will take 500 hectares and the other 500 will be given to you."   You can find the verbatim reporting of the entire 2014 tour in the State House website here.  The NFSC was to have a Board composed of Cabinet Ministers, according to the then Secretary General.

In March of 2015, it was announced that the business activities of the new entity's will now be expanded to include processing and groundnut marketing thus subsuming the bankrupt Gambia Groundnut Corporation under the new name of The National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC)..

Our inquiries have confirmed that as at January 2016 an entity exists that goes by the name of National Food Security and Processing Corporation with Tony Carvalo, former Managing Director (MD) of GGC, now MD of the new outfit.  The word "marketing" has been dropped from the name, the meaning of which is still unclear because the regime is coy on divulging information as if to conceal some basic facts.

What is worrying and a concern to us is the fact that an Act establishing the new corporation has not been passed by the National Assembly and assented to by Jammeh for it to be a fully-fledged legal entity.  The implications of operating illegally, as NFSC appears to be, casts serious doubts on any and all business, especially foreign transactions it may enter into.  When Jammeh intends to instruct his Minister of Justice and/or the line ministry to prepare a Bill for introduction to the National Assembly floor is any one's guess.

We have in the past couple of years expressed our strong opposition to the creation of this monstrosity called National Food Security Corporation which led to appealing to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in the form of an open letter, highlighting the potential threats it poses to the traditional tenure system, and thus the social cohesion in rural Gambia.  We continue to oppose the establishment of the National Food Security Corporation.