Pinoy farmers’ peanuts link RP and Gambia
- Marichu A. Villanueva () - June 23, 2005 - 12:00am
While the economy of the tiny Republic of Gambia in West Africa depends primarily on agriculture, it also finds itself agriculturally linked to the Philippines via the "pink" peanuts indigenously grown here.

Visiting Gambian President Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh was particularly proud of the fact that a variety of his country’s peanuts — their top export product — came to Gambia in 1966 all the way from the Philippines.

But more than peanuts, the visit to Manila of President Jammeh was meant to highlight the recent discovery of crude oil in his country, a bounty that he promised to share with the Philippines during official bilateral talks with President Arroyo.

And as a "reciprocal" gift by his people for the spread of the Philippine pink peanuts in their country, Jammeh offered "for free" one block out of five oil fields discovered last year in Gambia to be developed in a possible joint exploration.

At the Manila Hotel’s MacArthur suite where the Gambian president was billeted during his three-day state visit here, Foreign Minister Musa G. Balagaye told The STAR yesterday that the two presidents discussed the possible joint oil exploration as a common solution for both oil-dependent countries to the current spike in crude oil prices on the world market.

"Gambia wants to reciprocate what the Philippines has done for it in 1966 in terms of introducing the ‘Philippine pink’ or groundnut variety in Gambia. He is reciprocating by offering one block to the Philippine government either on the basis of their own exploration or joint exploration with the Gambian government," said Balagaye.

"This means that this block no longer goes for any tendering and the Philippine government is not going to pay anything. So they have been offered one block free out of the five blocks. So (for) the remaining four blocks... international oil companies will compete in terms of which company offers the most favorable condition to the (Gambian) government," he added.

Balagaye disclosed the Gambian government has extended for one month the period for international bidding on the newly discovered blocks of oil fields.

He said that during his talks with Mrs. Arroyo at Malacañang the other day, Jammeh mentioned a Filipino agriculture expert by the name of "Professor Brookes." Jammeh credited Brookes as having brought to Gambia this "very popular" peanut export variety described in their country as "Philippine pink."

The peanut production of Gambia accounts for 80 percent of their country’s gross national product and is supported largely by their tourism industry.

The Philippine peanut variety has pink, medium-sized seeds in a two-seeded pod.

Gambia’s pleasant beaches, on the other hand, and its fame as the birthplace of the character "Kunta Kinte" in Alex Haley’s book "Roots," have helped land this country of 1.4 million people on the world tourism map.

Balagaye, meanwhile, said the Gambian leader found his visit to Manila "very useful, very timely," even during the current climate of political turbulence as the credibility of Mrs. Arroyo’s leadership is put into question.

"We don’t know anything about these things," Balagaye said.

ALEX HALEY AT THE MANILA HOTEL BALAGAYE DR. YAHYA A FOREIGN MINISTER MUSA G GAMBIA JAMMEH KUNTA KINTE MANILA OF PRESIDENT JAMMEH MRS. ARROYO
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