AGRICULTURE

by Ben Taylor

Government allays fears of food shortages
Rising global food prices will have no impact on Tanzania’s food security, according to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gelard Kusaya. “As a country we have enough food and we have never depended on any foreign assistance when it comes to feeding our people,” said Mr Kusaya.

Mr Kusaya was responding to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which said prices of the most globally traded food commodities rose sharply in November to their highest levels in nearly six years, a situation that was putting extra pressure on Tanzania’s food security. The agency named Tanzania as among 45 countries that would continue to be in need of external assistance for food.
In its quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, FAO stated that there are localized shortfalls in staple food production in Tanzania. Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Dodoma and Singida regions were mentioned as areas of concern.

But Mr Kusaya said currently the country’s food stocks are nearly 3.5m tonnes, with adequate food supply as the weather favours farming activities across the country.

“There are only three commodities that Tanzania imports from abroad which are wheat, cooking oil and sugar. The government is strategising to make sure that we reduce the import levels by producing these commodities locally,” he said. (The Citizen)

Cashewnut production misses target
Cashew nuts production will be short of target by over 20 percent this year, according to projections by the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT). Earlier projections had put the cashew nuts production at 278,000 tonnes for the 2020/21 harvest season. But this may not be reached for various reasons including vagaries of the weather and crop diseases.

The decline means cashews production will be unlikely to exceed the 232,681.8 tonnes produced last season.

Annual production varies considerably. Over 313,000 tonnes were produced and exported in the 2017/18 season, earning $575 million (about TSh 1.3 trillion) before declining to 225,304.98 tonnes the following season.
According to the CBT acting director general, Francis Alfred, 159,196.17 tonnes of the produce worth TSh379.929 billion have been sold reaching the 40th round of auctions in November 30, this year.

Further, despite improvements in cashewnut trading compared to previous years, some farmers complained of delays and other problems with payments for their cashewnuts. Farmers in Mtwara region reported to have sold their produce to various cooperative unions in November, but receiving no payment by Christmas. (The Citizen)

Agriculture in a difficult year
The turbulence of 2020 – with general elections in Tanzania on top of a global pandemic – did not spare Tanzania’s agriculture sector. The pandemic has impacted on both global and local demand for agricultural produce.

One study found that grain sales by wholesalers within Tanzania declined by 40% at one point, when the closure of schools and higher education institutions deprived traders of a major source of custom. Coffee exports declined over 5% year-on-year.

In contrast producers of lemon and ginger profited from the situation, with the price of a single lemon rising from Tshs 50/ to Tshs 500/, due to widespread belief that these products can protect against Coronavirus infection.

The pandemic is also blamed for a shortage of fertiliser in Tanzania, which could impact on productivity into 2021. (Daily News)

EU support for farmers
Cinnamon and Avocado growers across Tanzania are among those benefitting from an EU initiative to support East African farmers in accessing EU markets. The EU-EAC Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARK-UP) is a €40m, four-year initiative launched in 2018, co-financed by the EU and the Government of Germany.

Spice farmers and exporters have been trained in production and post­harvest techniques, leading to a substantial rise in the value of their sales – from $2 per kg of cinnamon to $10.

“More than 1,300 smallholder farmers, over 200 SMES and 20 institutions have so far benefited from MARK-UP interventions in Tanzania,” said Mr Safari Fungo, senior regional technical advisor for the initiative. In addition, 71 private sector representatives and 130 trade experts from the public and private sectors were trained in market research analysis.
The initiative assists farmers and exporters with compliance with Good Agricultural Practices (GlobalGAP) which is key to penetrate the food export markets.

Research shows potential for increased cotton production
Research by the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) has demonstrated how the profitability of cotton farming can be more than doubled by the use of improved agricultural practices.

According to Everina Lukonge, the lead researcher, use of improved technologies has delivered impressive results, as cotton farmers are clearly benefiting from the increases in seed cotton yields by using fertilizers – and reduced use of chemicals by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques.

From the training conducted for farmers, extension staff and other cotton communities in the covered villages, farmers were able to harvest at least 1,200kg of cotton crop per hectare. Profit per hectare rose from TSh 150,000 to just under 400,000.

The initiative has trained over 360 extension staff and 1,800 farmers in the Western and Eastern cotton regions on IPM, farm business and entrepreneurship skills. (The Citizen)

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