Budget Hearing- Agriculture Ministry requests Le350bn for food security


September 24, 2018

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Deputy Agriculture Minister Samking Kohinah Braima…making a case for an increase in budget allocation
Permanent Secretary Mohamed Brima Daboh

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry has stated that they would need Le350 billion annually to turn the sector around.

Samking Koihinah Braima made the passionate appeal Saturday, September 22 2018, when officials of the ministry appeared before the technical committee to present their 2019 budget, strategic plan and what they did in the year under review.

The ministry presented a budget of Le64.4 billion, which was the ceiling given to them by the Ministry of Finance.

But Mr. Braima noted that if there was going to be any significant input into agriculture going forward, the ministry must have nothing less than Le350billion as according to him, the allocated budget would not make any significant impact.

“We should see the need in supporting agriculture. We should not be hell to the fire for failures of past governments. This is a new dispensation and what you will have is professionalism and determination to deliver. Give us the funds we are asking for now and we will deliver,” he urged.

Categorised as the third hungriest country in the world, Mr. Braima noted that Sierra Leone produces far less than what its people consume, and added, “without any significant contribution to the sector, this condition will be perpetual.’’

The Deputy Minister assured that if budget allocation they are asking for was delivered by the finance ministry, they would once again make Sierra Leone a proud nation of rice producer and exporter.

He added that for every investment in agriculture, especially for rice production, it would be an investment in health.

“In addition to spending around 500 million dollars on food importation, rice account for 40 to 50% of that amount. We can save the nation the stress of forest. Just the school feeding component of the budget of the Basic and Secondary Education ministry is larger than the entire budget of our ministry,” he said.

He maintained that even though there could be argument that development partners have put so much into agriculture, their interventions have been wrong, inadequate and misplaced.

According to him, bad policies that have been in place over the years, thus seven importers of rice in country are benefiting from Le300 billion of subsidy in the form of tax exemptions, and therefore called for a rethink on that figure.

“The ministry can be revenue making machine for our country. We have been greatly underused, utilised. By importing rice locally, the nation can save 60 to 70 dollars per ton as compared to imported rice. The sector should be used as the engine to reactivate socio-economic growth in the nation,” Mr. Braima reckoned.

Earlier in his presentation, Permanent Secretary Mohamed Brima Daboh described the budget estimated by the finance ministry as grossly inadequate and laughable.

He disclosed that out of the Le53.9 billion approved budget for 2018, only Le10.3 billion was allocated and requested for, but unfortunately, only Le100 million has so far been disbursed.

Daboh, however, disclosed that a total sum of Le21.5billion was generated for the 2017 financial year, with Le3.9 billion in the first half of 2018. He added that Le5.2 billion was projected for the second half of 2018 and Le6 billion for the 2019 financial year.

Chief Economist in the Ministry of Finance, who chaired the session, Alimamy Bangura lent credence to the ministry’s request for an increase in their 2019 budget.

“If we do not get it right in agriculture, we can’t be able to manage the economy. The economy will not grow without agriculture because it accounts for 50% of it.  We may have to look at their budget for 2019 because we have to do something towards government commitment in diversifying the economy,” he said.

Interventions from various non-state actors and district budget committee representatives called for an increment in the ministry’s budget if the government was serious about fighting poverty.

Meanwhile, the budget of Le64.4 billion was approved, pending a review with a view to increase it by the finance ministry.