(Based on an interview Zanzibar’s Minister of Agriculture and Livestock gave to the Bulletin in January 1987 – Editor)
In Zanzibar, the main staple food is rice. There are also maize, cassava and bananas. Because of its importance and the fact that we have to pay very heavily for the 50,000 tons we have to import, the Government is putting great emphasis on rice growing. One project, which has been going on for ten years (five years was spent on research) aims ultimately to irrigate 5000 hectares. So far we have developed some 600. The UNDP/FAO and World Food Programme have been helping us and it is apparent that with help, our farmers could produce two or three times the amount of rice they are producing now. In cassava and bananas we are self-sufficient.
In the cash crop area Zanzibar has a monocrop agricultural system depending on cloves. And prices have gone down severely. At one time we were selling cloves at $9,900 a ton. Today we get only $3,500 to $4,000. Mr D.L. Heydon from Britain’s Tropical Development Research Institute (TDRI) produced a very useful report for us (Clove Producer Price Policy. April-May 1986) in which he recommended us to raise the producer price. In doing so we would encourage farmers to collect the full harvest each year.
We accepted the recommendation and first grade cloves are now being bought from farmers at Shs 72 per kilo compared with Shs 25 last year. We have already seen beneficial results. Fields are being kept much cleaner. We hope to be able to review the price each year in accordance with the rise in production costs and in world market prices.
Because we are walking on this one leg however, we risk falling down. We are therefore trying to diversify. We hope to develop spices such as vanilla, black pepper, chillies, and cardamom as cash crops. We are undertaking research but are not sure whether these new crops will be economic. We are also therefore making efforts to further develop other cash crops including citrus and other fruits.
Hon. Soud Yussuf Mgeni