AGRICULTURE

by David Brewin

Charcoal and wood
Moves are underway to ban trade in wood and especially in charcoal in Tanzania in a government program to curb deforestation. Statistics from the Tanzania Forest Service Agency show that the country converts more than 370,000 hectares of forest to charcoal every year. But charcoal traders are opposed and saying that thousands of people who use charcoal or earn a living from producing or selling it will suffer. Poor households across Tanzania’s main cities and towns regard forests as a source of income, harvesting trees to supply growing markets for charcoal and timber. About 2 million tonnes of charcoal is consumed in Tanzania ever year, half of it in Dar es Salaam.

Sea cucumbers
The growing demand for sea cucumbers has prompted traders in Zanzibar to call for regulation of exports of this marine species. According to the East African they say that trade in the sea cucumber is unregulated on the island with poachers smuggling it to Asian markets. In China a kilogram of processed sea cucumbers can go for as much as $300 depending on the species.

Sea cucumbers are processed and exported either by sea or air to China, Hong Kong and Dubai, where the demand is high. Exporting to Asia via Ethiopian airlines costs $1.20 per kilo. To process the sea cucumbers, farmers boil them in hot water sprinkled with salt, then dry them on the shore. 1 kg of sea cucumbers shrinks to about 200 grams. The dried product is considered a luxury food item in many Asian seafood markets. The delicacy not only generates revenue but also contributes to food security among fishing communities. It is believed to have high nutritional and medicinal value and is used in China to treat health problems such as fatigue, impotence and joint pains. The harvest period lasts about seven months. There are about 1,000 species worldwide according the National Geographic Magazine.

Coffee levies
The Tanzanian government is scrapping 17 taxes and levies imposed on coffee as part of measures to boost production. The levies include coffee buying, processing and selling fees as well as marketing. Examples of fees include $1,000 for a licence to sell coffee, $20 for a permit to purchase parchment dry cherry coffee and $250 for a coffee processing licence. The country has put in place a 10-year development plan to raise the annual production of coffee. It is hoped that production will increase from about 50,000 tonnes 100,000 tonnes over the next four years

Coffee accounts for about 5% of Tanzania’s total exports and generates about $100 million per year. Tanzania is the fourth largest coffee producing country in Africa after Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Uganda.

Fertiliser pricing
Tanzania has set regulations for the importation and supply of cheaper fertilisers and appointed two firms to supply 55,000 tonnes of urea and diammonium phosphate. 50kg bags will sell between for $26 and $50.

The fertiliser deal was agreed upon between King Mohammed of Morocco and President Magufuli during the King’s tour of Tanzania in October. Tanzania plans to build a $3bn fertiliser factory in partnership with German, Danish and Pakistan industrialists.

Sweet potato laws
New efforts are underway to harmonise standards for sweet potato seed production, which is considered crucial in improving the quality, quantity and market access of the crop. New standards for production of the crop include ensuring that potato seed multipliers sell quality vine seedlings that are disease-free and that they are of the right variety and quantity. Margaret McEwan, a senior project manager for the International Potato Centre has been quoted as saying that the production of sweet potatoes had been hampered by virus diseases that affect the quality of vines. She said: “with the improved disease – resistant sweet potatoes farmers can produce between 12 and 15 tonnes per hectare compared with 4 tonnes using the existing varieties.” Sweet potatoes are the most important food crop in East and Central Africa after cassava and maize.

Tsetse fly eradication
The Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar are among pioneers to successfully use radiation against the tsetse fly, according to a report released by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM). This has been achieved through the nuclear-based sterile insect technique (SIT), a form of insect pest control that involves the mass-breeding and sterilisation of male tsetse flies using ionising radiation in special rearing facilities. The sterile males are released systematically in tsetse infested areas, where they mate with wild females, which do not subsequently produce offspring.

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