, BANJUL, Jun 17 – Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said Sunday the west African country would ban rice imports from 2016, in a bid to boost demand for local produce and move towards self sufficiency.
“Come 2016, we will ban the importation of rice into this country in order to strengthen local food industries as well as promote food self-sufficiency and good health,” the president said in a speech transmitted by public broadcaster GRTS.
Rice is one of Gambians’ food staples, but the country produces just a small amount of what the population consumes.
Imports mainly from South-East Asia have been essential to meet demand.
According to official data, until 2009, rice led the country’s imports of agricultural produce.
Agriculture makes up 26 percent of the country’s output, and the sector employs three-quarters of the working population.
Jammeh’s announcement came just a week after the country banned imports of frozen chicken legs.
Gambia had halted those poultry imports after expelling one of the country’s most powerful business magnates for stocking groceries months past their sell-by date.
The affair has sent shockwaves through the business community in mainland Africa’s smallest nation, where retailers and the impoverished public rely on cheap imported goods to keep shopping bills down.