Lawmaker seeks JPM intervention in cashews

Sunday January 6 2019

President John Magufuli

President John Magufuli 

By Bakari Kiango @TheCitizenTz

Dar es Salaam. Cashew nut farmers in Mtwara, Lindi and Coast regions are in a deep financial stress thanks to delays in payment of their dues by the government, an opposition lawmaker has claimed.

In his Friday press statement, Ndanda Member of Parliament Cecil Mwambe (Chadema) pleaded with President John Magufuli to visit the cashews producing regions, and listen to challenges facing growers.

Farmers, who spoke to The Citizen, augmented the claim alleging that they were yet to be paid their money, saying they were worried they would fail meeting their financial obligations this January.

Hence, they asked President John Magufuli to intervene and help them speed up the process of issuing payments. According to them, only a few farmers, who sold up to 1,500 kilos of cashews, have so far been paid, while those who sold above the amount keep waiting.

Mr Mwambe said it was only by visiting the farmers that President Magufuli would understand better the perils facing the farmers.

In his statement, the lawmaker expressed his suspicions that the President was being misinformed by his aides over the matter.

Mr Mwambe said he was receiving many complaints from cashew nut growers, most of who claim not to have been paid.

“There is excessive use of force by defence and security organs, a situation that is perverse in many areas. However, there happened the most brutal incident in Nachingwea. Leaders of some primary cooperative unions were beaten at the office of DAS (district administrative secretary),” claimed Mr Mwambe in his statement.

He also alleged that the process of paying farmers was being conducted in a secretive and bureaucratic manner, something that created an environment for those tasked with verifying farmers’ cashews to demand bribes.

Another MP from the southern parts of the country, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, also expressed similar sentiments towards the cashews handling process. According to him, it was only by meeting the farmers that the President would understand better the challenges facing them.

He warned that the underlying challenges might stall the capacities of local authorities in the regions to deliver on their financial obligations.

This, according to him, was due to the fact that the authorities depended on the crop as the source of their biggest chunk of revenue.

“If these challenges are not sorted out soon, then the farmers will fail to provide their families with basic needs, including paying for their children’s school requirements as schools open on Monday (tomorrow),” said Mr Bakari Natunga, a farmer based at Limaliao Village.

For his part, Newala Rural Member of Parliament Ajali Akibar said he was aware of the farmers’ woes but urged them to stay calm.

“I’m aware that the government has started to pay the farmers. It has started with those who sold less than 1,500 kilos. I think we need to be patient. I believe all will be paid,” he said.

The claims by Mr Mwambe were, however, played down by Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga.

“The government only pays farmers, who have already been verified. So far, there is no proof of corruption in the entire process. I want to assure all farmers, who have already been verified that they will be paid their dues,” said Mr Hasunga.

Recently, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the government would hasten the pace of payment of farmers’ dues, while keeping a close eye on those with profiteering motives. He said that with effect from earlier this week the government would start paying Sh12 billion to cashew nut farmers who had sold their produce but were yet to receive the payments.

“Currently, we are spending Sh6 billion on a daily basis to pay farmers. However, starting next week, we will double the amount,” Mr Majaliwa, who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Ruangwa, was quoted as saying by a section of the media.

The goal, he said, was to ensure that farmers got paid their dues and be ready to tackle their New Year financial obligations,.