Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Ibrahim Alpha Sesay, the newly appointed Minister of Trade and Industry in Sierra Leone, unveiled plans to integrate rice importers into the Feed Salone project during a conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Highlighting rice as a critical food security commodity, the minister emphasized the pivotal role of importers in both rice production and providing assistance through farm mechanization tools to bolster production.
Addressing the press during a Tuesday briefing, Minister Sesay underscored the significance of allocating 5% of revenue generated from taxes towards boosting rice production. This initiative aims to encourage citizens to consume locally grown produce and mitigate price inflation.
“We are actively collaborating with rice importers. They will be integral to the Feed Salone project,” reiterated the minister.
He revealed that three meetings had been convened with rice importers, with the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Fisheries, and the Chief Minister. Emphasizing self-sustainability, Sesay highlighted the importance of domestic production for local consumption and potential export to bolster national revenue.
Pointing to the consumption of Gari, a cassava-based staple food across Africa, Minister Sesay estimated that approximately 300 million people on the continent rely on it. Importers participating in rice production will engage in growing the commodity or aid the government in providing farming equipment to rice producers.
The minister discussed the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, focusing on expanding exports to other African nations to reinforce food sufficiency efforts.
Acknowledging challenges in meeting minimum standards for African trade, particularly concerning the country’s standards bureau’s alignment with European regulations, he revealed investments to upgrade the bureau. A sum of $300,000, support from the World Bank, has been allocated to enhance the bureau’s technological capabilities, amounting to a total expenditure of $330,000 for the overall upgrade.
Regarding the Feed Salone project’s progress, Minister Sesay disclosed an expenditure of 800 million Leones on the Torma-bum project. He highlighted operational and payment challenges in devolved functions but assured the commencement of cement and plywood factories in early 2024 to alleviate retail costs.
Highlighting the Munafa fund, the minister mentioned the disbursement of 41 billion Leones, primarily benefiting 85% of rural women. AJ/14/12/2023