‘AGRICULTURE FIRST’

In several recent statements President Kikwete and other government leaders have made it clear that agriculture, which employs about 80% of Tanzanians, brings in 30% of foreign currency, and contributes 27% to the national income, is to be Tanzania’s top priority in the drive to expedite development.

Launching the programme on August 4th in Dodoma, the President urged the private sector to participate effectively in the implementation of his new ‘Agriculture First’ (Kilimo Kwanza) declaration. He pledged that his government would “engage the private sector in large-scale farming” in a bid to realise the declaration’s objectives and bring about a green revolution in the country. He said that the private sector had been the only missing link in past agricultural initiatives but it was critical in meeting the ‘Agriculture First’ goals.

However, probably mindful of the controversies which have occurred in other African countries like the Sudan, and especially Madagascar, where Saudi Arabian investors were offered a large tract of land for the growing of food crops and the government was then overthrown in a coup d’etat, he added that this did not imply that the agricultural sector’s policy as a whole would be overhauled. The crusade was aimed at injecting fresh vigour into the implementation of various agricultural projects. The President stressed the need to revive the government’s own plantations – some of which formed part of the ill-fated groundnut scheme in the 1950’s as one of the ways of improving agricultural production. “After reviving these plantations, we would like to offer them to the private sector so that they could run them effectively” he said.

Tanzania had 29 million hectares of land suitable for irrigation agriculture but the current data showed that only 400,000 hectares were under irrigation. Commenting on the use of seeds, the President said: “I have already ordered all departments in Prisons and JKT to research and come up with better seed varieties.” He complained that most Tanzanians did not use fertilizers – one of the reasons for poor performance.
Minister for Food and Agriculture Steven Wasira said that his ministry had embarked on a number of initiatives to establish a ‘farmer’s bank’ in collaboration with the government of China to provide capital to small farmers.

Priority in the budget
The government’s 2009/2010 budget reflected the Kilimo Kwanza programme with a 30% increase in expenditure on agriculture including compensation for losses incurred by crop buyers in the cotton sector. There would be exemption from VAT on processed locally grown tea and coffee and on heat-insulated milk cooling equipment as also on farm services – land preparation, cultivation, planting and harvesting. There are also specific budget allocations for the identification and surveying of land for large scale food crop farming. The government has increased subsidies on fertilizer from Shs 7bn in 2005 to Shs 118bn in 2009.

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