By Muhammed Sailu Bah
Senior officials from the Gambia Livestock Marketing Agency (GLMA) and government, livestock dealers and butchers within the Greater Banjul Area and West Coast Region have discussed the challenges facing the sector and agreed to maintain the current prices of meat during the forthcoming Muslim fasting month of ‘Ramadan’.
A stakeholders meeting was held on Saturday, 6 May 2015, at the Livestock complex in Abuko in order to discuss livestock related issues with a view to addressing the pressing issues affecting the sector.
In his introductory remarks, Dr. Dennis Carayol, Chairman of GLMA, said the meetings serves as a platform where the livestock dealers, butchers, senior government officials, consumers and other stakeholders discuss issues concerning livestock businesses in the country.
He said GLMA is faced with three challenges in the marketing of livestock and meat, and these are the low turnout of butchers and dealers for registration, the cheating in the use of the weighing scales and the pricing of meat.
He urged dealers and butchers to consider the prices and make them affordable for the consumers.
Responding to the concerns raised, the representatives of butchers and livestock dealers told government officials that it is not their wish to be hiking the prices of meat but that this is determined by the expenses they incur in their operations.
They revealed that 80 percent of the animals they sell are bought from neighbouring countries and that only 20 percent comes from the Gambia. They explained the issue of having to exchange the depreciated dalasi into the CFA francs, the cost of transporting the animals from very long distances, and the other expenses on the journey; that some animals even die on the journey.
It is explained that although it is expensive, hiring Gambian drivers to transport these animals from Senegal, it is relatively cheaper as they charge D900 per head of cattle. They also cited the problems encountered at the ferry crossing as the animals always stay for more than two days on the other side at Barra before they cross.
“Unlike the other goods, you are supposed to be feeding and providing water for the animals for them to survive and this is very expensive as a bag of hay costs D500,” explained one of the dealers.
The livestock dealers also talked about the taxes they are obliged to pay to government.
“All these factors are what determine the price of the animal and the meat and meat products,” said another dealer.
They therefore urged the authorities not to impose any price on them but to consider these factors when agreeing on reasonable prices for the animals and meat.
The operators also noted that they too are consumers who are equally being affected by the prices of other basic commodities that are hiking on a daily basis.
It was recommended by the operators that such meetings should be held at least once every year to highlight and discuss concerns affecting the sector with a view to finding lasting solutions to their common problems.
Also addressing the meeting was Mr. Ousman Jammeh, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, who deputised the secretary general and head of the civil service. He said the Agriculture ministry acknowledges the challenges highlighted by the livestock dealers and butchers.
He recommended that GLMA writes through the ministry of agriculture to the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) on the issue of facilitating the easy movement of livestock at the ferry crossing points.
The agric PS attributes the low percentage of the sale of livestock in the country to the unwillingness of farmers to sell their animals.
Mr. Jammeh, however, assured government’s continuous efforts in ensuring that these problems are overcome.
He said what they want now is for the prices of meat to be stable not only for the fasting month of Ramadan but even after it.
The agric PS challenged GLMA to go to the grassroots in order to encourage farmers/livestock owners to offer their livestock for sale.
PS Jammeh also said that it is now time to consider livestock breeding as a priority area in the Gambia so as to address this problem of having to import 80 percent of the animals consumed in the country from the outside.
On the issue of the transportation challenges faced by dealers, the agric PS asked GLMA to come up with project proposals on how government can intervene to best remedy this problem.
PS Jammeh urged all the participants present to share the message across the board.
During the discussions, the stakeholders finally proposed for the following prices of meat to be maintained in the respective Administrative areas:
Banjul: A kilo of meat and bone is D150, beef steak is D200 and mutton is D200.
Kanifing Municipality: A kilo of meat and bone is D200, beef steak is D225 and mutton is D225.
Brikama: A kilo of meat and bone is D175, beef steak only should be sold at D200 and mutton is D200.
In closing the meeting, the chairperson Mr. Ebrima Cham, Deputy Director GLMA, saidthe proposal will be sent to the president’s office for approval and to be announced later.