By Modou S. Joof
Following mixed reactions on the June 6 “immediate” ban on importation of frozen chicken legs, The Gambia Government in a change of tune last week, said the ban will take effect in September.
The ban will take effect in September 2013, President Yahya Jammeh announced in a meeting at Basse, the administrative capital of the Upper River Region.
Mr Jammeh linked the high rate of ill health in the West African nation to the type and quality of food that people eat.
The country’s ministries of Trade and Health said they banned chicken legs imports “after a careful review and consideration”. The two ministries said the decision is intended to protect the health and welfare of the public and to ensure that consumers get value and quality for their money.
“The Gambia cannot be used as a dumping ground for sub-standard products or as a transit point to other ECOWAS countries for such products,” they added.
However, consumers and sellers of frozen chicken legs told FPI sources “We are left without option”.
“We know that majority of the people cannot afford the cost of beef or mutton,” they complained on June 10.
People were seen buying the chicken legs from vendors at the Serrekunda market despite authorities citing health implications associated with frozen chicken legs.
A retailer said: “I have nothing to say, because everybody knows what is going on and this is very sensitive, am afraid.”
“If they want to ban these chicken legs it will really affect the poor people who cannot afford to buy those expensive meats,” the woman said on condition of anonymity.
“This is so sad. I think people will feel the pinch of this Government’s action during the Ramadan, the Muslim holy month,” she added.
Lamin Kanyi, a frozen chicken legs buyer, suggests the Government to thoroughly examine the health implications involved.
“I think the Government should re-inspect the health implication linked to the consumption of frozen chicken legs. If nothing is found, businesspeople should be allowed to continue the importation of the product,” Kanyi said.
“The cows, goats and sheep we rear in the country are very expensive and not all of us can afford a kilo of beef or mutton. Many of us can easily afford to buy the chicken legs,” he added.
“If the chicken legs we have here are not good for our health or lack quality, then the Government should ensure better quality chicken legs are allowed into The Gambia,” said another vendor who preferred not to give her name.
She added: “There is no need to ban it. You cannot tell me that all chicken legs are of poor quality and unhealthy.”
But, vendor Bintou Gassama asked: “If these chicken legs are not good for our health why do health officials allowed the product into the country for far too long?”
“In the first instance the Government should not allow the product into the country after knowing it is not healthy, but banning it after people are already use to it will really do no good to businessmen and women and poor consumers,” she argued.