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In Sierra Leone, Traders Debunk Minister’s Fake Claims
By Bampia Bundu
Oct 18, 2010, 12:20
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The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Sam Sesay’s claim on 15th October 2010 during the Government Weekly Press Conference held at the Youyi Building that locally produced rice is being sold in the open market at the cost of Le 400 (Four Hundred Leones) has been sternly refuted by traders who say on the contrary, “prices of rice across the board are going up every day and that the cost of the type of rice the Minister was referring to presently cascades between Le 800 and Le 900 per cup.

Dr. Sesay had stated that his Ministry has tremendously well over the three years under review to provide rice sufficient enough to feed the people of Sierra Leone, to the extent that the cost of rice is very low when compared to what obtained three years ago. He authoritatively stated that the cost of the locally produced rice, commonly called ‘Wallah Rice’ is in such an abundant supply in the market that it has forced down the price of imported rice. He said the ‘Wallah Rice is being sold in the open market at Le 400 per cup. “This is due to the intervention of my Ministry,” he had asserted.

He further mentioned that the availability of locally produced rice in the market across the country is being facilitated by the Small Holders Commercialization Programme which is aimed at increasing productivity in Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector by ensuring the marketability of agricultural products.

But this assertion was debunked by traders at the Dove Cut Market as lies and mere propaganda now commonly known as ‘vuvuzelarisation’. Madam Kadiatu Kamara a rice trader at the market revealed that the prices of rice and other food condiments are going up every day, noting that the cost of the locally produced rice the Minister is referring to cascades between Le 800 to 900 per cup. Madam Kamara says she deals in rice and that she is not convinced by the Minister’s statement as what is applying practically with regards the price of rice is far fetched from what the Minister is alluding to.

“Why will he not say that the price of rice has gone down because of the efforts of his Ministry? He does not buy rice and he does not come down to the market. He is therefore speaking from a blind man’s point of view. We are seeing and therefore we are feeling it. It is a lie,” Madam Kamara said.

Another trader, Ya’Mbalu they as traders are yet to see and feel the impact of all “the big talks on how government has helped the farmers.” According to her, the so-called help to farmers; which includes the issuing out of fertilizers, the ‘tractorization’ programme etc have not had any positive impact on the cost of rice in the country as far as they are concerned.

“By now things should be getting better, but that is not the case. Things are getting harder and harder for us every day especially so when money is very hard to come by these days,” Ya’Mbalu noted, adding, “I don’t know what kind of Minister that man is, this Government tells lies too much to the people”.

She called on the President to caution his Ministers, because according to her, “We are no longer the fools we were in 2007. We now know what is happening,” she maintained.

In an apparently dejected mood, and as a confirmation of the reality on the ground, Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, Haja Sadata Sesay had retorted, “if you want the price of rice to come down you have to join the game… be a farmer and farm, by that way the cost of rice will fall.” She however confessed that indeed the price of rice was less than Le60,000 when they took over in 2007 as was sung by popular musical lyrist Innocent.

Saidata Sesay lamented over efforts her government has made to sustain that price limit, but according to her “things continue to slip from our hands” but she however observed that since the country was running a liberal economy, “We cannot dictate to the market to drop the price of rice.”

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