By Oumie Mendy
The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGSB) in partnership with Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) project under the Ministry of Environment convened a meeting to discuss standardising forest produce on Saturday 24th August 2022. The meeting highlighted the importance of standardizing forest produce to promote international trade and thereby increase exports and the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The meeting held at the West Coast Region Governor’s office in Brikama brought together stakeholders from the Ministry of Environment, Market Unions and TGSB. The discussions centred on how to standardize productions made from natural resources in The Gambia, to meet international standards for both national and international consumption.
Baobab, Moringa and Honey were listed as some of the main forest products to be considered with plans to expand the range of forest produce in the near future according to the officials.
EBA Project, Business Development officer Moriba Touray highlighted that “most of the foods consumed in this country are made outside and no one knows how they are produced”. To address this concern Mr Touray believes that “it is necessary to standardize our own products for Gambians to consume what is made in their country”.
The EBA Project Lead, Mr Touray reiterated that The Gambia is blessed with natural resources that are eligible for consumption which should not be neglected in favour of imported products.
“But despite all these natural resources, even tea is imported when we have forest products that can be used for tea and they are chemical-free and cost-effective,” argued Mr Touray.
The Gambia currently exports much less than it imports meaning that a lot of funds are spent on external products which could be produced in the country. According to the Trading Economic website which makes reference to data from the Gambia Bureau of Statistics “exports in the Gambia increased to D176 million in March from D94 million in February of 2022″. However, “imports in The Gambia increased to D4.3 billion in March from D3.3 billion in February of 2022″.
Ms Marie Mendy, principal conformity assessment officer at TGSB said they are aware of the abundant forest products in the Gambia but have failed to make it into the international markets because of a lack of standards.
“We need to add value to our products for them to be fit for human consumption both locally and internationally. Some of these plants have health benefits and are used by the local people,” said Ms Mendy.
She added that standards were developed for safe and quality products for the tree plants produced which are the Baobab, Moringa, and Honey.
The regional social welfare office for the West Coast region, Haruna Badjie believes that the country has capable people who are already involved in food processing and only need these standards to guide them in the process to attain quality and safety for better health.
He added that when the locally produced food attains international standards of food processing, it will generate revenue for the country through exportation.
“This will equally promote local businesses and contribute to GDP growth,” he added. A business and finance-focused online database Investopedia describes GDP as “the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period”.
According to the World Bank, The Gambia’s GDP was worth 2.078 billion US dollars in 2021. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs has projected that GDP is expected to grow as outlined in the chart below.