AGRICULTURE – THE CHANGING SCENE

Any recent visitor to Tanzania is bound to observe certain changes in the agricultural scene. These changes are related primarily to the improved input supply (machinery, spares, fuel, chemicals and fertilisers) and the better prices now available for crops. Most noticeable are the imports of the agricultural inputs which have been assisted by foreign exchange support from aid donors. Producer prices for the major food crops are being kept at a level which has stimulated production. Tanzania has a surplus of maize and a major headache over how to move and store it.

However, high inflation and soaring prices of imported goods as the ‘shilling has depreciated, have made long term planning for farmers very difficult. To date, the improvements to production have been achieved with minimum new investment. The fundamental restructuring of agriculture to allow a greater role for the private sector from production through to marketing is a longer term process. Recent Government policies are generally pointing in this direction. Having achieved food self sufficiency the emphasis now is on export crop rehabilitation.

The Private Sector
The driving force for this export crop rehabilitation is recognised as being the private sector. The Government is trying to reduce its own role as a direct agricultural producer on large state-owned farms and ranches. For example, a recent development has been the leasing of National Agricultural Food Corporation (NAFCO) land in Arusha to the private sector for the cultivation of food crops. Another example is the sale of formerly nationalised sisal estates. Certain Government coffee estates in the Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions are also understood to be in the process of transfer to the private sector. Already, the privately owned tea and sisal industries are investing in new equipment and professional management. Coffee is heading in the same direction.

As production from small farmers and private estates increases, the need for Government owned farms is reduced and Government resources can be released for the improvement of the infrastructure, import of inputs and development of research.

The Government is keen to encourage non-traditional exports as well so efforts are being made by entrepreneurs to set up new horticultural and fisheries businesses. Crucial to the success of these efforts to attract investment is the liberalisation of export marketing, to allow funds to be retained outside Tanzania to cover the foreign exchange costs of the farming operations in the country.

The support services for agriculture (input supply, transport, credit, marketing) are still weak and in need of investment. Here a major role should be played by the cooperatives, in the supply of inputs and in the collection and marketing of crops. At the moment the burden on the cooperatives is too great as their financial and administrative abilities remain weak after their reconstitution in 1984. The Tanganyika Farmers Association (TFA), a private cooperative organisation based in Arusha, has continued for many years to provide a valuable lifeline to farmers. The role of membership-based organisations like TFA in providing support services and an interchange of ideas for farmers is most valuable.

International reaction to these developments has been positive. This bodes well for the success of Tanzania’s efforts to develop new and traditional export markets in accordance with recent Government statements.
Robert Whitcombe

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.