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ECOWAS calls for free movement of agricultural products

Updated: 2013-01-30 14:46
( Xinhua)

ACCRA - Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should remove roadblocks that hamper the free movement of agricultural products in the subregion, a senior official said here Tuesday.

Marc Atouga, ECOWAS commissioner for agriculture, environment and water resources, made the call on the sidelines of a three-day conference, aimed at identifying and finding solutions to challenges to intra-regional trade in foodstuff.

Tariff and non-tariff barriers among ECOWAS member states have hindered the development of trade across the subregion, he told Xinhua.

"We have too many roadblocks. If you take the road from Accra to Lome, you see at least 10 to 15 roadblocks: security here, customs there, phytosanitary measures there; are all these needed? Oh no," the commissioner said.

Atouga believed that there was a need for the free movement of food products to alleviate food insecurity in areas that were suffering from food shortages.

"If there is no free movement of agricultural products, then you cannot take food from areas that have good production to areas that are suffering from the lack of food. This is the reason why we think we have to talk about it, and find out how we go about solving this problem in West Africa," he said.

Lack of communication, Atouga said, was another challenge causing the roadblocks to linger on in the subregion, adding that some measures had been taken but the people did not know about them.

He therefore stressed the need to educate the people to keep abreast of various tax regimes, rules and protocols.

The conference, organized by ECOWAS and the US Agency for International Development, is part of a joint campaign to improve food security in the subregion through intra-regional food trade.

The event brought together more than 200 participants from civil society, public and private sectors, and technical partners of the subregional body.

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