The Executive Secretary, Sierra Leone Chamber of Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD),Ahmed Nanoh has requested that the Minister of Agriculture facilitate a meeting between the Chamber and President Bio, so as to chat the way forward in enhancing production and productivity through the private sector.
Ahmed Nanoh made the above request during a meeting with the minister at his Youyi Building Office in Freetown, where he recognised board members of the SLeCAD for having gone through trying times to enhance the movement of the Chamber forward.
Nanoh further thanked the Minister for the attention given to the private sector within his difficult schedule and also thanked him for establishing the Policy Shift for the first time in history of Sierra Leone to promote the private sector.
He noted that even though there were challenges with the implementation, but the fact is that it is operational in all districts within the country and now benefitting farmers and the private sector actors.
He said he strongly believes that, with time the structure of the Policy-Shift will be reviewed to improve on service delivery, production and productivity of the agriculture sector.
He also thanked the Minister for creating the space for the Chamber to participate in the Ministry’s yearly retreat held in Bo district in which the Chamber made a presentation with positive discussion held to promote the private sector.
Nanoh further highlighted some of the challenges of the private sector which includes access to input and technology,access to organised market, access to finance, competitiveness of the private sector,non-participation of the private sector in overseas meeting, import and export duties and challenges at the Port,standards, packaging, and branding,the problem of feed and vet services for poultry 7 small ruminants and weak coordination between the private sector and the Ministry of Agriculture.
In a meeting with members of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD), the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Abubakarr Karim, promised that he was ready and prepared to working with the chamber in order to promote the private sector.
He noted that the private sector is always among his topmost priority and that he rescheduled the meeting with them because he had wanted to have enough time at his disposal to meet and discuss critical issues with the agribusiness private sector players and jointly plan to work to implement practical action plan to improve on the business environment.
He called on members to work as one and support the president vision for the agriculture sector and mentioned the Policy-Shift, which he said was implemented primarily to boost up the private sector and to promote production and productivity that will help to boost the economy of the country.
The minister acknowledged the work of the Chamber as vital to coordinate the private sector and ensure increase investment in the agriculture sector.
He acknowledged that the Sierra Leone private sector is going through huge challenges especially with lack of access to finance and other resources and the shocks that they do encounter that affect both Government and the sector itself.
He said supporting and capacitating the private sector will promote good policies and bring in development, adding that President Bio has proposed that Agriculture will be his flagship program come his next term and that it will be a big opportunity for the private sector represented by SLeCAD.
The minister also made strong commitment to work towards the completion of the SLeCAD office and also informed the president about the opening of the office as that will send a strong message on the commitment of the government on Agriculture.
To address the challenges surrounding access to finance, he said government was working on instituting an agricultural investment bank that will be operational with a single digit.
The minister informed the private sector and that, they were putting more effort to design more workable policies to promote the local private sector as currently investors are investing in places where good policies are implemented.
He recognized the need for the public and private sector to work more closely to promote what they produce and acknowledged the fact that the issue of access to finance is a big challenge,considering the manner at which the economy is slowing down.
Deputy Board Chairman of SLeCAD, Chukuma Johnson , said the meeting between the agribusiness private sector operators and the Ministry of Agriculture was a great opportunity for the Chamber and its members to explore the opportunity, engage and discuss vital issues that were limiting the growth of the agribusiness private sector.
He informed all that, the Chamber throughout its establishment has achieved multitude of successes that have promoted farmers and Small and Medium Enterprises in the agricultural sector.
He noted that there are still many more challenges which the management of the Chamber was always striving to overcome and that the challenges could be easily handled with the help of government.
He further informed the minister and stakeholders of the ministry that, the Chamber was facing a pressing challenge with regards the completion of it office that is currently under construction at the Agriculture compound, Lumley Beach Road funded by the World Bank through the SCADeP project.
“The management of the Chamber has made immense effort to get this work completed but the contract has been a headache. It is in connection to such effort that the Chamber and it membership are humbly appealing to the Minister and Team’s intervention to expedite the completion of the Chambers office,” he appealed.
Director-General and Chief Agricultural officer, Dr. Mohamed A. Sheriff, said the ministry has given everything to the private sector and encouraged members of the private sector to go and make good use of everything by being progressively inquisitive.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and members of the Chamber agreed to organizing a public private dialogue either monthly or quarterly and that the ministry should work with commercial banks to move the loan trench from 300 million Leones to 1 billion Leones.
They further agreed that the ministry should inform members of the private sector about unfolding opportunities and that the ministry should make a way for Bennie mix to go international, decentralize extension services.