This Column is devoted to monitor and report on issues that relate to production, processing, preservation and marketing of agricultural produce, aimed at ensuring food security in the Gambia as well as the interventions of Government and Non-governmental Organizations in this regard.

Groundnut is the principal export crop constituting 66 percent of the earnings of the country from agricultural exports and the largest cash crop in the country for that matter.

The performance of the crop is a major function of the performance of both the groundnut sub-sector and a major influence on poverty reduction in the hardest hit poverty areas of the country.

Until the privatization of the groundnut sub-sector in 1989, the former Gambia Produce Marketing Board (GPMB) and the Gambia Cooperative Union (GCU), were the two main institutions involved in the marketing of agricultural produce particularly groundnuts, and the supply of farm inputs.

The GPMB was responsible for financing, processing and export of groundnuts and the importation of the necessary agricultural inputs particularly fertilizer.

The GCU provided support for the collection and payment of farmers’ produce, as well as the distribution of farm inputs through the primary marketing societies spread across the country.

Under this structure, agricultural input and output marketing was greatly enhanced.

However, the system was rather a State monopoly, which was not consistent with the structural adjustment and privatization policies of international institutions and the arrangements had to be terminated.

Groundnuts as both food and cash crop, has been the primary source of livelihood and foreign exchange earnings of the country, and will remain so in the foreseeable future, in contributing to food security and commercialization of the sector.

However, groundnut production has not been consistent since 1990 mainly due to marketing issues which did not provide a reliable basis for planning and forecasting returns from the sale of the crop. A number of actions are in various stages of implementation to address the two most critical constraints that affect the output of this subsector, namely the availability of quality seeds and associated inputs, and the marketing of the produce itself.

This policy will advance those actions that have shown prospects of success and will continue to develop others that will produce the desired results to meet national priorities of poverty reduction.

Groundnuts (new variety) production of the 73/33 variety, has not been consistent in the period between 2000 and 2008.

In the early 2000, production fluctuated between 34,400 metric tons and 31,437metric tons, rising to an average of 49,531 metric tons in the mid-2000s, and dropping to as low as 17,961 metric tons in 2007. It rose again to an average of 48, 717 metric tons in 2008.

Generally, yields in 73/33 stagnated around 1,000 kg/ha with the lowest yield of 550 kg/ha recorded in 2007, which was closely associated to the 2007 dry spell experienced 21 days after the first rains. This negatively affected the production and productivity of the new variety.

Groundnut (old variety) production of 28/206 variety mirrored that of the 73/33 variety, for not being consistent during the period 1990 and 2008.

In the early 2000, production fluctuated between 58,538 metric tons and 63,691 metric tons. In 2006, this dropped to 43,376 metric tons and dropped further to as low as 41,120 metric tons in 2007. Production then rose to an estimated 60,925 metric tons in 2008.

Generally, yields for 28/206 variety stagnated around 1,000 kg/ha with the lowest yield of 680 kg/ha recorded in 2007. This was also closely associated with the 2007 dry spell experienced at the beginning of that year’s rainy season which affected the performance of the crop.

This was the intention of Government for 2009 to 2015. Has this been achieved?

This Columnist will get in touch with the former NARI Director of Research for his reaction.