Dr Sam Sesay, Agriculture and Food Security Minister said yesterday at the weekly Information Ministry press briefing that he has already prepared a cut-off date for the importation of rice but no revival of the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB).
The Agriculture Minister disclosed that for the increase in rice production he had identified producing areas and what strategies would be taken to ensure enough production.
He explained that in ensuring food self sufficiency, government had launched the ‘tractorisation’ programme at Rolakor in the north. “What is also very important is the strategic nature of Rolakor and most of you who have traveled between Lunsar and Makeni must have seen the vast land of bolis and when we talk about agriculture in this country especially rice production, an easy reference is Rolakor” he said.
Dr Sam Sesay explained that the area is strategic because of its visibility and access –being close to the highway. Therefore he said “ When you produce a lot of rice it will be found in the market”
The Agriculture Minister mentioned that both the President and his Vice drove in a tractor and ploughed a long stretch of land after the launching of the ‘tractorisation’ programme. Thereafter, the President went on to launch the first ever national livestock fair at Tekor which was started as a veterinary division but grew to become the livestock division.
Dr Sam Sesay further disclosed that government was in the process of agreeing the cut off date for rice importation but stressed that the programme “has cost implication as I don’t want to shoot an animal I have not seen and give a cut-off date without firming up on the other implications of whether we have the resources until such date we will say to end importation.”
He however added that the programme “has been developed and it will be declared the President”
On the SLPMB, the Minister disclosed that he had been part of the technical team for the review of it when the one time Vice President Dr Albert Joe Demby was appointed to look at the past and future of SLPMB.
According to him he said the analysis was very apparent that the way the SLPMB was going “must be something that we cannot have back the way it was”.
He stated that “the SLPMB like all national produce marketing boards in Africa performed woefully and this is simply about the issue of government intervening in the market wherein you can allow free play to the effect that produce was a monopoly of the SLPMB as the private sector could not come in”
Asked whether there will be a revival of the SLPMB, He chuckled and answered “No I mean it is implied any way”