Agricultural engineer and politician, he campaigns for a real strategy to develop the supply capacities of the national market by local producers.
By Lucien Bodo
According to a letter from the Minister of Finance which Mutations was aware of, the country persists with massive imports of certain cereals such as rice. What is your reaction to this choice which deviates from the declared objectives of increasing local production?
I admit that this decision is revolting and discouraging for all those who believed and saw coming the heyday of the producers. It sounds like a condemnation to underdevelopment, even a condemnation to poverty for a country with high potential that is Cameroon. This is very serious. It is astonishing that the Head of State who, moreover, denounces the massive imports of foodstuffs, comes to instruct them to contradict himself.
When I speak of condemnation to poverty and underdevelopment, we have to understand each other. 65% of Cameroonians live from Agriculture, (agriculture, livestock, fishing, forestry, etc.) by practicing in transport, marketing, processing, tools, inputs and the production that is its udder. Without production, everything else does not exist. However, by importing, we kill the production and therefore the activity of 65% of Cameroonians; and this is the reality of 145 tons of rice that we import, to eat to the happiness of producers on the other side of the world. There is no better way to be poor. 80 billions of CFA francs approximately for 145 000 tonnes of rice that could be produced locally with 19 billions CFA francs of subsidy to 65 000 producers who would have created 145 000 jobs… This is saying something.
Build up a backup stock, with the times are understandable. But doing it from imports is too big for a country with rich potential like Cameroon. With the pandemic, all countries are reviewing their food and production policies. Everywhere we talk about relocation, food sovereignty, shortening of relations between producers and consumers.
In your opinion, what should be done to boost local production, as the current health crisis strongly suggests?
As you can see with the subject of the hour , local productions suffer from a lack of recognition and protection, especially from politicians and consumers. If this recognition were acquired, we would not be talking about the current massive and scandalous imports. We would have helped producers to build up and manage reserve stocks as required by the current health crisis.
If this recognition is achieved, we would do a lot to tackle the problems that undermine our production. I cited, jumbled up, the inorganization of producers into cooperatives, inter-professional groups and other groups, better technical support, financial support in the form of a premium for production, processing, conservation, marketing and I pass. Without losing sight of the fact that consumers must also support production through their consumption choices. As we are used to saying: what would producers be without consumers? And vice versa, you will tell me.
In light of current data, what are the sectors in which it is urgent to invest to increase their production at the national level and thus reduce imports?
You know, rice is popular and suitable for importation because this cereal which has a significant energy value can be stored and transported easily, cooks easily, costs less and swells in the pot, as you might say. We are fortunate to have not only land that matches this crop, but also other grains that have the similar advantages such as maize, sorghum and millet. Without forgetting the fact that rice as a food supplement can be replaced by plantain, macabo, yam, cassava… A whole range of products to be promoted.
Speaking of rice, did you know that the far North is full of enormous rice potential: very suitable climatic conditions? The sun, the water, especially the Logone which is a manna. Soils very suitable for rice cultivation in the Logone valley… Five basins established with the possibility of strengthening: Yagoua (8 000 ha); Maga (12 ha) Logone Birmi (12 000 ha); Logone and Chari (8 000 ha); Lagdo (17 ha); without forgetting the Faro Basin where we can develop near 100 ha… Enough to produce what Cameroon needs in rice, and export. Without forgetting the multiple by-products that would create jobs and enrich populations.
The problem of massive imports is not new in Cameroon. Suddenly, some believe that the phenomenon continues perhaps because corrupt officials and some economic operators would find their account. Do you share this opinion?
When we worked on the issue of imports of frozen chicken cuts between 696 – 2006, we discovered that there was a significant difference between the quantities declared by economic operators at customs level and the quantities obtained in terms of quota from the Ministry of Livestock, fisheries and animal industries (Minepia). This through the technical opinions which were the subject of a trade passing from hand to hand. We note that with rice, it is the same case. Namely a food product, locally producible, which is the subject of imports with quotas obtained from a ministry which assumes supervision, without any logic.
Do not go looking for a relationship between imports and local productions. She does not exist. It is interests and power games that take precedence. Hold. Import quotas for frozen chickens were distributed by Minepia without the Ministry of Commerce (Mincommerce). Those of rice are used today by Mincommerce without the Minader. Yesterday it was the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development with agropoles without the Minader. And what about the Ministry of Youth and Civic Education with its agricultural projects without the Minader. For sure, Agriculture gives food of a different kind to unusual consumers.
This article was written and posted first by Mutations