When the efforts of the State in favour of the agricultural world do not reach their targets, in a country like Cameroon, it is necessary to worry, as the subject is so sensitive. More than ever, it is urgent to set up a one-stop shop capable of financing all the actors in the sector with efficiency and regularity.
By Guy Gweth*
It is an unusual sight to alert public opinion, analysts and local decision-makers. Usually so discreet, nurserymen and seed growers, gathered in a collective and carrying placards with their demands, demonstrate in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER). Sitting in the Cameroonian capital since 20 April 2021, they openly demand several billion in arrears from the public authorities.
Some of them claim that they have exhausted all remedies to obtain payment of their arrears of seed and plant production services. Others, among them, confirm that the members of the Collective of Nursery and Seed Growers of Cameroon (CPSC) are not unanimous about their strategy. But their sit-in planned for 20 to 23 April 2021, in front of MINADER, seems to transcend their differences to pose a global and crucial problem.
The CPSC’s grievances are twofold. Firstly, « the payment of arrears due to cocoa-coffee nurseries from 2013 to 2016, 2019 and 2020 on FODECC funds ». Their release, they write, is subject to ‘the authorisation of the President of the Republic’. Secondly, ‘the payment of arrears to actors in other crops’: plantain, maize, oil palm, etc. The SCCP has given the government 14 days to act on this from 22 April 2021.
Plants and seeds are key elements of agricultural production systems. In large industrialised countries such as the US, these elements are a matter of national security. Without quality seeds and seedlings, Cameroon’s agricultural leadership in certain sectors will be compromised. In the end, hundreds of thousands of agricultural actors, already weakened by the Covid-19 crisis, could be left out in the cold.
The difficulty of assessing the volume and nature of the real needs of farmers, the low purchasing power of Cameroonian producers, and the relative adaptation of certain varieties proposed by research are already points of tension in the sector. The resulting tensions can be explosive. However, the Cameroonian state cannot afford another crisis at this time with the pivotal players in the agricultural world.
In terms of competition, the penetration of the market for high-yielding plants and seeds by multinationals, boosted by intellectual property law and the various regulations relating to it, is contributing to the progressive privatisation of life. If the State of Cameroon wants to avoid farmers’ dependence on the foreign seed sector, it will have to strengthen the support mechanisms for those who are already claiming arrears from it…
Despite their solidarity, the strikers of the CSPC must integrate that there will not be a common solution for all for the year 2021. Except by extraordinary means. If the 3 billion dollars claimed from the Cocoa and Coffee Development Fund (FODECC) are indeed in the institution’s accounts, the situation is different for the other sectors. Hence the need for the state to harmonise the existing mechanisms, clarify the access modalities and ensure their regularity.
All in all, the will shown by the public authorities through the battery of aids to seed producers, nurserymen and growers must be seen as a strategic investment. A one-stop shop for the Cameroonian agricultural world (GUMAC), functioning as the State’s financial arm for agriculture, would be the ideal instrument in terms of equality, uniformity, legibility, accountability, agility and quality of service to users.
Better than any current system, a One-Stop-Shop could help protect the domestic market, increase the competitiveness of local agriculture and contribute to the well-being of the actors of the agricultural world.
- Guy Gweth is an economic consultant and director of the « Doing Business in Africa » programme at CentraleSupelec (France). He is the legal representative of the Federation of German SMEs (BVMW) in Benin, Cameroon, Gabon and Togo.