The director general of the Gambia Food, Processing and Marketing Corporation, Mohamodou Njie has strongly defended the new groundnut buying system introduced by government despite reports of farmers being unhappy with the move.
“The presidents and secco managers last week said groundnut farmers remain unhappy about the Qmoney service and are demanding it to stop,” an experienced operator Yaya Nyangado, told The Standard Friday.
But the former GGC boss said the change is meant to ensure transparency and accountability, arguing that the complaints are mainly coming from those who are resisting the change.
He said Agib is contracted to buy groundnut and farmers are paid on the spot without any delay as opposed to what he calls misinformation being circulated by individuals who are resisting the new system.
“The Q-Money aspect is just to collect data because we have realised that the GGC was not having data that will inform some of its decisions. The data will help us in terms of aggregating the number of farmers that are selling to the corporation per region, gender among other things. I know it is creating some kind of challenges for the farmers but they are not compelled to give this data,” Njie said.
The data, Njie added, will help the corporation in its decision-making and will also serve as source of information for the ministries of Finance and Agriculture when they want to implement certain policies.
He said farmers are paid first before the process of taking their information, which he said is also voluntary.
“When I was appointed, the first thing I did was to do a thorough review process and one of the observations we made was that cooperatives lack the governance structures. They are currently managed by one person and normally, a cooperative is supposed to be structured to have a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and a bank account. That is how it used to be in the past,” he added.
He said before, the GGC was giving seccos pre-financing to buy groundnut on their behalf but in most cases, the money is not returned even if they don’t buy the groundnut.
“Sometimes we give them money, they buy the groundnut and resell it and return our money. We were losing hundreds of millions of dalasis. So when I came, I said this cannot continue, we need to do things differently,” he explained.
Mr Njie also made it clear that farmers are not compelled to sell their groundnut to government.
“What we are saying is that those who are coming to the country to buy this groundnut are not registered and they don’t pay taxes, whereas the GGC is registered and paying taxes. This is a loss to the country’s economy. We have an open market. We already have a lot of companies that have applied and our team is processing their applications to ensure that the farmers are not cheated,” he said.
Njie said it is unfair for private buyers to come into the country and buy groundnut and take it to another country when the government had spent over D200 million to subsidise farmers during the rainy season.