CAMEROON- Farmers in Cameroon are protesting a recently-instituted ban on cash crops exports to Nigeria, announced by Cameroon’s trade minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, in a bid to reduce illegal trade between the two countries.
While explaining, the Ministry of Trade said the ban was needed to curb revenue loss of about US$165 million from smuggling cash crops to Nigeria – 60% of the total trade.
While the government intends to reduce the smuggling of grains and other cash crops to neighboring Nigeria, these farms hold that the policy is hurting the farmers more than it is protecting them, and are calling for the immediate reversal of the law.
Baba Ahmadu, the spokesperson of the Association of Cereal Farmers on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria was quoted by VOA as saying that many farmers are unable to store their crops for marketing in Cameroon.
According to him, Cameroon has inadequate facilities to protect cocoa, wheat, corn, rice, and sorghum from moisture, dust, and [insect] swarms that invade and destroy crops after harvest.
He says farmers prefer selling their produce to a ready Nigerian market because rice, corn, and raw cotton processing equipment are hardly available in their country.
According to the Cameroonian farmers, it’s more profitable and safer to sell their goods to Nigeria.
Ahmadou says selling to Nigerian merchants is also more profitable, and he cites the example that farmers can get about 20% more for a 50-kilogram bag of unprocessed rice.
However, Cameroon’s government complains it pays subsidies to farmers to sell their cash crops locally and at agreed prices instead of Nigeria.
Moreover, the farmers say the ban will be challenging to enforce along the porous border, with several unmanned entry and exit points.
Trade minister Mbarga says the government is aware of the challenges facing the farmers and is working on resolving them.
“One of the challenges, of course, is the inadequacies of post-harvest processing and storage facilities,” he said. “The government has developed some programs to process 40 percent of our total production, and now with the prohibition of child labor and with the prohibition of deforestation, those people who are destroying forests to create new plantations will not have access to the international market.”
Since the institution of the ban two weeks ago, authorities have sent hundreds of police to the border who have seized scores of trucks conveying farm produce to Nigeria.
The farmers insist that smuggling cash crops to Nigeria will continue as long as their options are selling at lower prices at home or risking illegal exports across the porous border.