Farmers in the Gambia have informed this reporter that they are at the mercy of middlepersons who purchase their groundnuts at a cut throat price since the Government or the buying agents are yet to announce the commencement of the trade season and the tonnage price.
Talking to Foroyaa recently, farmers in the North Bank and Lower River Regions lamented the late start of the trade season. They revealed that most of them have already sold a greater part of their produce to middlepersons across the border as the trade season is yet to start while they are being confronted with pressing financial issues that need urgent attention.
The farmers explained that although they do cultivate maize, early and late millet and groundnuts, it is the groundnuts which they have traditionally been relying on as a cash crop but that it is unfortunate that the early millet, which is meant for their subsistence, they now sell in order to get cash.
Modou Lamin Cessay, one of the farmers, explained that due to the level of poverty in the farming community couple with food insecurity, they are compelled to sell their early millet to middlepersons long before they are even harvested.
The farmer said it is during the lean period i.e. July to September when their food stock is depleted that they resort to taking loans from these middlepersons which they repay with their early millet produce at harvest time. This, he added, is compounding their food insecurity and their poverty. “The cost of two bags of rice from a middleperson is three to four bags of early millet,” he revealed.
Mr. Ceesay called on the Government and non-governmental organisations that are interested in enhancing the income of farmers to address this issue as it is one of the contributing factors of food insecurity and poverty in the country.
Omar Njie, another farmer, who was found with his groundnuts at the border, said he was carrying his nuts to the sale-agent at the border since the trade season is yet to commence in The Gambia.
“We cannot wait for the commencement of the trade season in the Gambia to sell our groundnuts since we have to eat, cloth our families and settle other social needs. These needs cannot wait for tomorrow,” he said.
Mr Njie pointed out that the late start of the trade season has always been a problem for the farming community as they are left with two unfavourable options of either selling their early millet at a cut throat price or selling their nuts to middlemen.
Other farmers who spoke to this reporter expressed similar concerns and also called on the government to assist them with proper marketing arrangements for their produce to be sold early in order to free them from the crutches of the middlepersons.