Members of parliament yesterday took to task the Minister of Trade and Industry Alimamy P.Koroma and the Minister of Agriculture food security and Forestry Dr Sam Sesay to answer to questions pertaining to the rising cost of food items and other commodities.
Hon Ibrahim Bundu of APC asked the Trade Minister to explain the dire increase in prices of essential goods, and to explain about the strategic fund, smuggling, the importers and the issue of customs tariffs and port charges.
The trade minister answered that a combination of factors have accounted for the hike in food prices which have seen reactions from various countries in Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Abidjan, Cameroun, Mauritania and Togo.
Explaining the specifics the Minister said a barrel of petrol was twenty four dollars which has increased to one hundred and thirteen dollars per barrel. This he said if translated to the pump price will have an effect.
The Minister also explained that the importation of commodities like cement, flour, rice and sugar were in the hands of four Lebanese business men making way for no competition at all. “These are the ones who have formed the cartel and therefore there is no competition that is why we are at the mercy of these importers. I am sure we will have many more actors for the benefit of the masses” he said
M.Ps disagreed with the Minister when he tried to compare the various prices per bag of rice in the sub region to Sierra Leone when he said the rice sold in the country was between Le70,000-100,000.
On what should be government’s responsibility and why does government not reduce port charges to remove the country from the quagmire, he answered that “mind you most of our revenue comes from customs and if you are going to say no to customs it means somebody has to pay so we cannot as a government do so unilaterally”
The Agriculture food security and Forestry Minister Dr Sam Sesay was asked by Hon Tamba E.Kaingbanja to explain the causes of the hike in prices of basic food items and what plans his ministry has to control the situation.
The Agric. Minister answered that the hike in prices was a global concern which has shot up during the last nine months and has increased by 45%. He told the MPs that such a situation is expected to continue for some time for which a brace up was needed to tackle it.
In addressing the problems, he said “we have tried to put together two main strategies, the first being the use of mechanization by using tractors for which we presently have 141 tractors and most are in the field cultivating and tilling country wide”
He also said they have identified areas that will be placed under irrigation “we very well know that the effective method of cultivation is using tractors which has a lot of problems including environmental concerns and even the number of acres under cultivation will be so large for other agricultural activities to be under taken” he emphasized
Dr Sam Sesay further disclosed that a document has already been prepared for tackling it using the intensive method by using some part of the land under irrigation.