AGRICULTURE

by David Brewin

Abnormal climate change
As countries all over the world are reeling from abnormal climatic change, Tanzania has, during recent months, been unable to escape many of the effects. Parts of the country have suffered from severe drought and the onset of the rains in March exacerbated problems in various parts of the country. Some homes, roads and farms have been destroyed but Tanzania appears to have suffered less than most of its neighbours from these problems.

Need for more sugar
Tanzania has a sugar cane deficit of 135,000 tonnes. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa is therefore issuing import permits to private sugar manufacturers, enabling them to import while seeking investment in both cultivation and processing of sugar as a permanent solution.

The government is also setting aside approximately $300,000 to companies wishing to develop sugarcane plantations in Tanzania.

The National Social Security Fund as well as certain pension funds are contributing to sugar cane cultivation and production at Mkulazi Farm in the Morogoro Region. The Mkulazi Sugar factory, which is under construction, hopes to start production in January 2019, and produce 30,000 tonnes of sugar per year.

In Kagera Region, the Sultanate of Oman has agreed to invest new funds to increasing production at its factory from 60,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes per year.

Coffee
Tanzania is not a major coffee exporting country but it does produce Arabica (70% of coffee exports from Tanzania) of high quality in Moshi and other areas, and also Robusta (30%) which is the basis of cheaper instant coffee. In 2017/18, Tanzania ranked 19th in the world in terms of coffee production, exporting 48,000 metric tonnes to countries such as Germany, Japan, Italy, Belgium and France.

The Moshi Coffee Exchange is an auction which takes place every week in the Kilimanjaro Region, where licensed exporters can purchase coffee alongside unlicensed local exporters.

Other counties with significant exports of coffee are Ethiopia (33% of its exports), Rwanda (27%), Uganda (18%), with Tanzania on 5% and Kenya on 4%.

According to Tanzania Coffee Board Acting Director General Primus Kimayo, coffee production dropped to 780,000 bags in 2016/17 from 1.03 million bags in 2015/16. It was expected that there would be further reductions to 716,000 bags in 2017/18. This makes it difficult for farmers to meet the government’s target of 1.6 million bags by 2021.

Tanzanian coffee producers could produce more if farmers focused on all aspects of the production process and increased yields substantially. In Uganda, for example, in 2013 the government deployed the army to provide agricultural extension services and employed soldiers to improve production of coffee seedlings.

But the recent dramatically increased popularity of coffee in Europe and China. For example, a heading to an article published by the British Guardian newspaper read “Coffee culture is taking China by storm”. It pointed out to Tanzania that opportunities could arise to benefit by increasing its production, especially of premium Arabica coffee grown mainly in Moshi District.

Nile Perch & Human Rights
Controversy has been caused in Tanzania over dwindling stocks of Nile Perch fish in Lake Victoria caused by over-fishing. Research by the Tanzanian Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries shows that there are an estimated 1 million tonnes of fish in Lake Victoria – mostly the Nile perch – valued at between $300 and $500 million. It is estimated that in 2017 Tanzania harvested 300,000 tonnes of Nile perch. Harvests in Kenya and Uganda were about 50,000 tonnes and 350,000 tonnes respectively.

The three countries involved (Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya) are so concerned about the over-fishing that they have launched a joint operation known as “Save the Nile Perch” with fishing industries in the Lake starting to implement the plan. Each country has provided a budget of USD $600,000 each to go towards the cost. Controversy has arisen in the Tanzanian parliament as the government introduced measures to protect the Nile Perch stocks from being further reduced due to overfishing, and also to reduce corruption in the industry.

No time was lost in beginning to implement the project, but as strong measures began to take effect, MPs in parliament began to reflect on concerns about side effects. The MP for Geita, Constantine Kanyasu, spoke of high fines of up to 50 million Tanzanian Shillings ($22,000) imposed on fishermen found in possession of immature fish.

The MP for Ubungo, Saed Kubenea, described the operation as humiliating for residents, as officers were beating people, confiscating fishing gear, and soliciting bribes from the fishermen. “We want the operation halted and the Tanzanian government to review its plans and come up with another operation that would be conducted with respect for human rights,” he said.

The MPs asked the government to form a special committee to review the exercise.

Carrots
The Arumeru District Commissioner has imposed a blanket ban on the importation of Kenyan carrots in a bid to protect local producers from competition. He stated: “During the harvesting period, carrots are imported to Tanzania from Kenya but, by the powers I have been given by the President, not a single carrot will be imported into the district.” He said that he and all carrot farmers would stand along the Arusha-Moshi highway to inspect all lorries, to ensure that middlemen did not import a single carrot from Kenya. These actions have, of course, brought into question Tanzanians commitment to open its borders for cross-border trade, as required by the East African Communities Common Market Protocol.

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