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Some Gambian farmers oppose EPAs

FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

17 September 2007

Gambia: Some Gambian Farmers Oppose EPAs

Bubacarr K. Sowe

Some commercial farmers in The Gambia have raised objection to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), presently being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

These farmers and representatives of farmers’ organisations were recently sensitised at a session organised by The Gambia Social Forum at the Paradise Suites Hotel.

Njaga Jawo, the Executive Director of the National Women Farmers’ Association (NAWFA) told this reporter that the partnership being sought by the EU and the ACP countries may not yield "equal opportunities".

"When you have a reciprocal partnership between the EU and Africa, the difference is that they have more economic power to bargain, produce and pay because of their capacity". So, this is a question of capacity, and they have better capacity than we have. What that simply means is "Survival of the fittest," Mr. Jawo pointed out.

The NAWFA Executive Director said it is premature for Developing Countries or Least Developed Countries to enter into such a free trade agreement with rich European countries, stressing that the relationship would be "unfair".

He said recent studies have shown that countries, like The Gambia, will lose customs revenue as high as 90% per annum, if the EPA is signed by January 2008. Mr. Jawo decried that the EU will eventually dominate the ACP markets because they are highly subsidized while the poor ACP farmers with little or no machinery and financial support will find it hard to penetrate the EU market without restrictions on quality.

Mr. Jawo expressed that the deadline for the negotiations should be extended and the agreement be given "a developmental face" in order for the poor countries to grow.

Abdoulie Khan, Secretary General of the Commodity Traders Association said a reciprocal trade agreement between the EU and the ACP will do more harm than good to the developing markets. Further commenting on the agreement, he said: "That is impossible. If any Gambian based company wants to export groundnut into European Markets, there is no way. You will have problems with afla-toxin. A broker from Europe can come here buy the same groundnut without a problem," Mr. Khan said.

Musa Jawneh, the president of the National Farmers Platform, told this reporter that governments in the ACP countries should listen to the farmers and the poor. "If we open up our markets for the EU goods, without tariffs with cheap prices what would happen to the local producers?" Mr. Jawneh asked.

He opined that local producers will no longer be able to market their goods in the local market which would be dominated by cheap subsidized European products. He added that if poor farmers are no longer able to market their products, they will certainly be unable to get income to buy the EU products, which will eventually escalate poverty and economic decline. He called on the EU to develop the productive sectors of the ACP countries in order to allow a free and fair competitive trade.

Mamour Sey, of The Gambia Horticultural Producers and Exporters Association, said that for the EPAs to work, the productivity and capacity of the developing countries need to be strengthened.