by Ben Taylor
A proposal to amend the Cashewnut Industry Act as part of the 2018/19 budget met with a furious response from a section of MPs in parliament. The amendment, part of the Finance Bill 2018, was designed to collect all export levies from cashewnuts in the consolidated fund, rather than providing 65% to farmers through the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania as had previously been the case.
Cashew exports accounted for US$341 million in the year to March 2017, the latest date for which official trade statistics have been published. This is more than the combined earnings over the same period from coffee, cotton, tea, cloves and sisal.
MPs from cashewnut-growing regions – primarily Mtwara and Lindi – spoke vociferously against the change. Nape Nnauye (CCM, Mtama) and Hawa Ghasia (CCM, Mtwara Rural) – both former ministers – spoke strongly. The Parliamentary Budget Committee, chaired by Ms Ghasia, published data showing that the government had failed to remit a total of TSh 200 billion for financial years 20115/16 and 2016/17 to the Cashewnut Development Fund as per the Cashewnut Industry Act requirement that 65% of export levies be channelled back to farmers.
The argument proved to be the trickiest sticking point in the debate over the 2018/19 budget. At one point, the house was adjourned to give time for discussions between the Budget Committee and the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango. An opposition MP, Mr Ahmad Katani (CUF, Tandahimba) warned the Minister against visiting Mtwara and Lindi regions. The controversial amendment was eventually enacted.
A few weeks later, however, Ms Ghasia and the Budget Committee Vice-Chair, Jitoson Patel, both resigned from their positions on the committee, for reasons that were not explained.