Giving Our Produce Added Value!

Talk of Cameroon exporting raw materials just to turn around and import finished goods made from the same materials may sound condescending but true at least. Revisiting the country’s trading list with the rest of the world, one notices that she exports cocoa, coffee, wood, among others, with little or no processing even as she inevitably consumes finished products from the same raw materials exported.

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The gap between what comes in as foreign earnings from the exports and what is spent on imports are, to say the least, too wide to be simply waved with the back of a hand. Her perennial negative trade balance is thus a logical consequence! But it is never too late to right a wrong. Reason why the powers that be appear resolute to make a turnaround. Consolidating Cameroon’s position as the breadbasket of Central Africa is therefore a challenge worth surmounting. Like someone once said, the country needs to produce what she consumes and consumes what she produces.

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This is an imperative! Far from simply being a cliché that is copied from one political discourse and pasted in another, walking the talk requires not only producing in quantity and quality but striving to add value to what is produced at home. For, this is what makes the difference, especially in a competitive and globalised world; failing which the economy regrettably sinks.

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Last month’s Cabinet Meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office focused on ways of boosting the production of fish, meat and cereals in the country. For this month, the entire government yesterday March 28, 2019 listened to the Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development as he spoke on industrialisation and ways of ensuring local processing of agricultural produce.

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Logical evolution of events whose fruits are awaited by the population. Industrialising the production of anything, wherever in the world, constitutes an interwoven chain for the target to be hit. Cameroon cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that she indispensably needs to produce in quality and quantity. This will set a base (in terms of raw materials) for industries that could crop up to add value to the already substantial local production. Capitalising on industrialisation without boosting local production would be counter-productive.

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It doesn’t pay constructing a cassava processing plant before sitting down to reflect on where to plant the cassava that could supply the plant with raw materials. Industrial production of agricultural produce, it must be said, has varied merits of resolving multitudes of problems starring the country in the face. The operation alone is susceptible to boosting job creation and wealth generation. Division of labour, characteristic of any industrialisation process, would mean that people could be employed to produce the raw materials (farm work), transport the produce to factories, process them, package and sell. The impact of each agricultural plant in terms of job creation and socio-economic development can be non-negligible.

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It could even be more outstanding should stakeholders capitalise on the comparative advantages of each ecological zone in terms of what it can grow best. Processing the produce in other words means value addition which benefits both the producer and the national economy. Such a move could prevent post-harvest loss which has been a serious problem to many a farmer in the country.

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Processing the produce also makes for better storage and brighter marketable prospects, especially as price fluctuations are unpredictable. But authorities must not be oblivious to the fact that industry and agriculture require stable and sufficient power supply. The least of which is not good roads to move the raw materials from the farm to the industry and the finished products from the industry to the market. Taking one and leaving the other could puncture the chain. Synergy is therefore highly recommended!

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