August 5, 2016 By Hawa Amara
In order to encourage private sector investment in the agriculture sector and promote food security, the Sierra Leone Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) has called on the government to take immediate action and effect duty free concession for agribusiness enterprises in Sierra Leone.
Addressing the press at his Bathurst Street Office in Freetown yesterday, Executive Secretary for SLeCAD, Ahmed Nanoh, highlighted some of the challenges facing agriculture and agribusiness development in Sierra Leone.
He observed that President Koroma, through the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ has done tremendously well in energy and infrastructure sectors, while also prioritising agriculture, but noted that “there are critical challenges in the agriculture sector affecting SLeCAD members, which should be addressed immediately for the advancement Sierra Leone.
SLeCAD constitutes farmer-based organisations across the country that strive to achieving a common goal of increasing agricultural productivity in Sierra Leone.
He said their members were finding it challenging to clear agriculture materials and implement from the Queen Elizabeth II quay in Freetown.
He said they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government regarding duty free concessions on agriculture materials and implement, but stated that authorities concerned have refused to implement the MOU.
He spoke on access to finance as some of the key challenges affecting farmers in Sierra Leone, citing high interest rates on loan demanded by banks, short term lending, heavy collateral as some of the impediments to agriculture development in the country.
Nanoh also mentioned access to market as another challenge affecting farmers in the country, adding that the huge importation of foodstuff in Sierra Leone was as a result of lack of market for local produce.
He stressed the need to encourage private sector players to create job, impact food security and export foodstuff that are produced in the country.
He said non-governmental organisations that were in the habit of discouraging agribusiness in the country “should engage with the chamber and dialogue constructively and map the way forward rather than sending out negative messages that can stop the funding of agribusiness and private sector investment in this country,” adding “We want NGOs to desist from condemning and find a better way of engaging us in moving forward.”
He called on the government to establish single digit interest on loans issued by commercial banks, grant loans to innovative, noble and credible Sierra Leoneans, encourage long term lending, and in accordance with the Maputo Declaration, utilise 10 percent of its budget to finance agribusiness and Small and Medium Enterprises.
The SLeCAD executive secretary further urged that the military and police should buy local rice for their members, and that the 15 percent import duty on rice and poultry products should be revived, with the funds used to support farmers and agribusiness.