By Guy Gweth *
If, in an agricultural country like Cameroon, the efforts of the public authorities in favor of seed companies and nurserymen do not reach their targets, it is necessary to be worried. Usually so discreet, these key players in the agricultural chain sit in front of the line ministry to claim their billions in arrears.
Some claim to have exhausted the means to obtain the payment of their arrears of production services of seeds and plants. Others, among them, confirm that the members of the Collective of nurseries and seed companies of Cameroon (CPSC) are not unanimous on their strategy. But their sit-in from April 20 to 23, 2021, before the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), seems to transcend their differences.
The grievances of the CPSC are twofold. First, “the payment of arrears due to cocoa-coffee nurserymen from 2013 to 2016, 2019 and 2020 on FODECC funds”. Their release is subject to “the authorization of the President of the Republic”. Second, the settlement of “the arrears of the actors of other speculations”: plantain, potato, corn, palm oil, and so on. As of April 22, the CSPC gives the government 14 days to follow up.
As we showed in “Cocoa-Coffee: Understanding the Seed War in Central Africa”, op-ed published on March 14, 2021, seed is the key element in agricultural production systems. Without quality seeds, Cameroon’s agricultural leadership, in certain sectors, will be compromised. As a result, hundreds of thousands of players in the agricultural world, already weakened by the Covid-19 crisis, could find themselves in the straw.
The difficulty of appreciating the volume and the nature of the real needs of the peasant world, the low purchasing power of Cameroonian producers, as well as the relative adaptation of certain varieties offered by research, are already points of tension in the sector. . The resulting tensions, we said in the forum above, can turn out to be explosive. The state cannot afford another crisis with the backbone of the agricultural world.
In the field of competition, the penetration of the high-yield semen market by multinational firms, boosted by intellectual property law and the various regulations relating thereto, contributes to the progressive privatization of living organisms. If the State of Cameroon wants to avoid the dependence of farmers on the foreign seed sector, it will have to strengthen the support mechanisms for those who are already claiming arrears …
Despite their solidarity, the CSPC strikers must understand that there will be no solution common to all for the 2021 fiscal year. Except by extraordinary circumstances. While the 3 billion claimed from the Cocoa and Coffee Sector Development Fund (FODECC) are indeed in the institution’s accounts, it is different for the others. Hence the need for the State to harmonize existing mechanisms, to clarify access modalities and to ensure their regularity.
All things considered, the will shown by the public authorities through the battery of aid to seed and nurserymen must be seen as a strategic investment. Civil society organizations must ensure this. State instruments put in place to achieve the targeted objectives must be regularly assessed, readjusted and optimized. Objectives: to protect the domestic seed market, increase the competitiveness of local agriculture, contribute to the well-being of stakeholders in the agricultural world.