Cablegate: Wade Launches Goana As Response to Food Shortages

DE RUEHDK #0497/01 1201712
P 291712Z APR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) DAKAR 424, B) DAKAR 236

DAKAR 00000497 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) Summary: In response to increasing reports of current and
future food shortages in Senegal (Reftels), on April 18, President
Abdoulaye Wade launched a confusing and fiscally questionable
initiative he claimed will address current food insecurity and
greatly increase future agricultural production. The initiative
called GOANA (Grand Agricultural Offensive for Nutrition and
Abundance) aims to boost production through mechanization, improved
seeds, fertilizers and farming techniques, and to attract new
investments by political and business elites into agricultural
enterprises. It also includes significant government outlays for
energy subsidies and new technology, including cloud-seeding
airplanes. This overly ambitious plan is Wade's latest political
response to a difficult food situation that is eroding his
popularity. END SUMMARY.

A Land of Milk and Rice

2. (U) With members of his cabinet, parliamentarians and municipal
executives gathered around him, President Wade asserted that there
never has been famine in Senegal. He adamantly stated that there
will be no food riots in Senegal. Instead, the implementation of
GOANA, his new program to boost agricultural self-sufficiency, would
start this summer with an increase of rice production from its
current level of 215,212 metric tons (MT) to five hundred thousand
tons in 2008, an increase of 400 percent. For 2008, Wade also
announced targets of two million metric tons for maize production
compared to 185,000 MT in 2007 (Note: All figures are those provided
by the government. End Note.), three million tons for cassava
compared 121,000 MT in 2007 and two million tons for cereals
compared to 884,652 MT (to include 120,334 MT sorghum and 362,852 MT
millet) in 2007. Asked whether the crop expansion is realistic,
Prime Minister Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare said, "Wade's GOANA is really
ambitious, and one has to be ambitious in Africa." As for milk
production, almost nonexistent now, the target has been set at four
hundred million liters. Senegal spends over two hundred billion CFA
(USD five hundred million) per year importing rice and milk.
President Wade also touted his government's record on electricity
and cooking gas subsidies as an important complement to the fight
against rising prices and the improvement of consumers' purchasing

3. (U) Other measures promoted by Wade under the GOANA proposal
include the purchase of two planes for CFA five billion (USD 12
million) for cloud-seeding to provoke artificial rains. Wade also
promoted a new agriculture investment scheme that urges government
ministers, members of the National Assembly and the Senate, senior
civil servants, and private sector leaders to cultivate at least
twenty hectares of land. Local authorities are to have additional
control over the collection and sale of the harvests. [Note: it is
not clear how these new plantations will be accorded to elites, but
there is concern that existing small-holder farms will be
disadvantaged. End note.] Wade claimed that he does not need any
money from international partners to support his plan, but
nevertheless urged the latter to provide quality seeds, equipment
and efficient agricultural materials, fertilizer, and adequate
technical assistance. In a separate statement Wade announced that he
had secured a promise from Indian Prime Minister Singh to supply
Senegal with 600,000 MT of rice for the next six years. A call to
the Indian Embassy was met with skepticism that India would sell 15
percent of its yearly surplus to one country and they could not
confirm the veracity of Wade's statement.

Food Plan is "False Hope"

4. (SBU) The idea behind GOANA is to end imports and promote
self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Commenting on the plan, Robert
Sagna, a former Minister of Agriculture and current Mayor of
Ziguinchor, and an agronomist by trade, told Poloff: "Wade actually
does not believe in the plan. He never said how much he will invest
to make it happen and where the money will come from. In effect he
will take from Peter to give to Paul. Furthermore, the plan is too
late to be implemented this year. We do not have enough seeds or
fertilizer and even if we did, they should have been planted in
March." In Sagna's view, Wade's entourage "lacks rural sensitivity"
because they are an "urban aristocracy" without the "fiber for
farming". He noted that in Ziguinchor, a major peanut processing
plant stands idle due to a deficit in production and that the rice
fields of the Casamance are being tilled by aging farmers who are
not fit for intensive labor and who also face the problem of salt
invasion in their fields. In Senegal's northern River Valley, where

DAKAR 00000497 002.2 OF 003

two hundred and forty thousand hectares of land are available, he
noted that the issue of land tenure will be a big hurdle to Wade's
plan. Sagna thinks that the plan is no more than a catalogue of
false hope and warned that unless there is rain this summer, food
riots would be inevitable. FAS Agricultural Attache has conducted
informal surveys among stakeholders and confirms that Senegal will
be in a difficult position to significantly increase cereal
production, mainly due to a lack of quality inputs and the means to
purchase them. Seed quality is extremely poor, even for Senegal's
most important crops, as the national system of seed research,
propagation and farmer extension is effectively broken. Due to a
lack of rural credit, farmers will need to rely on subsidies or
donor interventions for both seeds and fertilizer, and it is nearly
too late for the 2008 campaign.

Aid Not Alms

5. (U) The GOANA meeting also became a forum for President Wade to
expound his views on aid. He ruthlessly criticized NGOs and the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) positing that "food aid is a
vast swindle orchestrated by NGOs to the detriment of recipient
countries." Using an anecdote from Niger he explained why he
refuses to call for food aid; "President Tandja told me that out of
USD 98 million allegedly collected a couple of years ago for food
aid, Niger only received three." He denounced what he called "false
doctors, caretakers of famine who provide life support to patients
[i.e. poor African countries] for the sole purpose of collecting
aid." He declared as alarmist a warning by Jacques Diouf (A
Senegalese and head of the FAO) who said last week that food riots
in developing countries would spread unless the world took steps to
reduce food prices for the poor. Wade opined that the coming Rome
Conference on famine should not be a round table where FAO begs on
behalf of African countries and asked that FAO stop taking twenty
percent of collected funds for its operation costs. "I don't want
the FAO to become forever an outstretched hand for Africa," Wade
said. For Wade, some partners "do not have Africa's emergence from
destitution as their primary concern." He called for concrete aid
in the form of equipment, seeds, fertilizers, and know-how.

More Immediate Measures

6. (U) According to the World Food Program, the most vulnerable
population in Senegal numbers about 660,000 in seven departments and
the food assistance needs in those departments are about 29,000
tons. Some experts believe the WFP assessment significantly
understates the hunger risk in Senegal. Prior to the announcement
of GOANA, the government had taken some concrete steps to help
stabilize the price of daily commodities, including the suspension
of customs duties and the elimination of VAT on wheat, rice, and
milk, and rolling back vegetable oil price increases previously
imposed by the country's dominant processor and importer, SUNEOR.
In addition, the GOS proposed the creation of price reference
grocery outlets, the decrease of income tax by CFA 6 billion (USD 12
million), and has fixed ceilings on internal transportation costs of
imported rice in order to control its retail price in remote
regions. The government also has set reference prices for rice and
many other commodities. Though the GOS estimates the cost of these
measures at CFA 152 billion (USD 361 million), including CFA 98
billion (USD 233 million) from cooking butane gas and electricity
subsidies, it remains difficult to confirm the reliability of these
numbers, with actual government commitments being higher. According
to a senior member of the presidency, aside from reducing civil
servant salaries, President Wade is prepared to make any budgetary
cuts necessary to support food prices.

French Ambassador's reaction
7. (U) French Ambassador Jean Christophe Rufin, who spent several
years working in NGOs, commented in an interview that it would be at
least ten years before dietary self-sufficiency can be attained in
Senegal. He then urged the reform of the banking system so that
farmers could have access to credit to produce two harvests.


8. (SBU) In reality, the announcement of GOANA is largely a
political gambit to buy time until the coming rainy season brings
(hopefully) relief in the form of improved harvests at the end of
the summer. Meanwhile, Wade will play on the traditional Senegalese
notion that an inability to feed oneself is shameful and will seek
to appeal to people's ingrained sense of stoicism. However, the

DAKAR 00000497 003.2 OF 003

government plan to increase domestic production will do little for
many (if not most) Senegalese families who do not suffer from a lack
of supply but a lack of purchasing power. With millions of
Senegalese likely are already skipping their mid-day meals, more
concrete steps by the GOS are required, such as securing and
pre-positioning food aid (with or without donor assistance). The
budget implications of rushed and overly-optimistic production
schemes, technologies, and subsidies also must be seriously
addressed. This includes the country's energy subsidies, which, at
up to three percent of GDP, the IMF and donors note have been a
major cause of the country's persistent budget deficit, and have
detracted from the country's ability to improve agricultural


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