Creating linkages between our agricultural producers and the contractors responsible for institutional feeding will help open up new market and business opportunities for SMEs and farmers and support increased competitiveness in the sector.
In 2013, agricultural imports outweighed exports by more than 10 to one, with rice, the country’s staple food, accounting for almost $130m of imports. In 2014, rice imports cost $112m and represented 4.8% of the country’s imports, second to refined petroleum.
The President’s Delivery Team is working with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security to develop new markets, and has identified the potential for local rice in institutional feeding – the provision of food services to institutions like the police, the prisons and the military.
“Increasing the quantity of local rice in these contracts would help to significantly open up the domestic market for local produce, boosting our private sector, encouraging job creation and improving food security,” says Oluniyi Robbin-Coker, Sector Coordinator - Private Sector Development for the President’s Recovery Priorities.
“The benefits are mutual, with the higher nutritional value of local rice making it ideal for feeding programmes in schools, hospitals and other institutions.” The success of Mountain Lion Agriculture SL – a rice processing company in Bombali that buys from local smallholders - proves that there are local suppliers with sufficient capacity to break into the institutional feeding market.
Donald Ola Smart set up the company in 2010 with a small locally made rice mill to test the viability of his business model. Two years later he invested in a two-tonne-per-hour rice mill that de-stones, de-husks and polishes the local rice, and now regularly supplies the World Food Programme (WFP).
Last year Smart was able to supply 740 metric tonnes of local rice to WFP despite the downturn in the harvest.
He attributes his organisation’s success to a strategy of empowering the local smallholders. “We offer interest-free seed loans to smallholders, make farm tractors available to them and have a team of outreach workers to provide support.”
A model farm, operated by the company trains outgrowers in modern agricultural practices.
Smart is enthusiastic about encouraging investors in the local rice market and looks forward to a future when home grown rice is the norm: “We should be food sufficient. Our people need local rice. It is healthy and nutritious and good for diabetic and hypertensive patients – conditions that many people here suffer from,” he says.
Work has begun to ensure that at least 10% of the rice procured in January 2017 by the prisons, the military, the police and the fire force is locally produced. In the next issue of ‘Leh we make Salone grow!’ we will follow the headway made by the President’s Delivery Team towards making local rice a staple ingredient in institutional feeding.