July 20, 2016 By Jariatu S. Bangura
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security has told Members of Parliament that his ministry was currently working on how to increase agricultural productivity across the country.
Professor Monty Jones also spoke about the need to flood the local market with goods produced in the country in order to minimise the high rate of money spent on importation of rice, onions and wheat flour.
“The country is spending US$250m on the importation of food commodities, including rice, chicken, among others, whilst its natural resources lie without proper utilisation. If we do what we are asked to do, we will think of how to increase production to the higher point to satisfy the domestic market. We have to stop drastically the importation of rice, onions and wheat flours in our country,” he said.
Professor Jones disclosed that an integrated project would be located in the north, supported by some Israelis, to develop poultry, adding that they have identified 100 hectres of land and 5,000 to 7,000 chickens would be produced each day.
He said it was high time that the ministry helped farmers increase their productivity and earn profitability.
“Our agriculture is very small, year in, year out, our farmers still rely on subsistence farming and that is why Ghana, Nigeria and other countries are far ahead of us today,” he averred.
He said fertilisers would be made available for farmers, and that access to markets, easy access to cash, extension to create an empire, engineering, and integrated efforts would contribute to the programme significantly.
“Onion production, cattle rearing are part of the project and they are looking at three locations, including Musaia in Koinadugu District, Teko in Bombali and Konoto, host small ruminants, including goats, pigs and sheep. The production of 65,000 tons of rice per annum would be located at Tomabu, around the Sewa Rice,” he said.
Another company, Sierra Tropical, he disclosed, would soon commence activity in Kailahun, Kono and Kenema, cultivating cocoa and coffee.
According to the minister said that Sierra Leone’s endowment in natural resources, including arable land, good climate and good weather, has the potential to create employment in agriculture that would result to economic development.
He said their key priority area was to create jobs for youth in commodity development, value chain and other sectors.
Earlier, Acting Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Aaron Koroma said agriculture was a key pillar in the government’s ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, and that there was need to do thorough oversight of the sector.
He added that there was need for forging partnerships and ensuring that the ministry’s vision and objective were actualised.
“We are here to complement your activity and that of providing oversight function as to how you utilise the funds given to you, as mandated by the Constitution of Sierra Leone. We cannot provide enough food production for the country if we fail to partner with each other,” he said.