Dar es Salaam. The government yesterday extended the cashew nuts trading season for the 2019/20 crop by nine days. This is in a deliberate move to ensure that the entire crop is sold.
Official figures show that some 209,995 tonnes of the produce had been collected as of yesterday – and, in the event, the trading season will now close on January 26 instead of January 17 as originally set. The Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) schedule shows that cashew auctions would be concluded with an auction by the Masasi and Mtwara Cooperative Union (Mamcu) which will be held in Mtwara District by the Mahurunga Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Amcos).
But, yesterday, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga told The Citizen that the nine days’ extension targeted Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma Regions.
“This means that farmers remaining with unsold cashew nuts – and buyers who are willing to buy the crop – can continue to trade,” he said, adding: “The government is aware that some farmers still have unsold stocks and they should, therefore, take advantage of the extended period.” According to him, cashew-growing regions with delayed harvest season – such as the Coast, Tanga and other Regions – were not affected by the new deadline.
Mr Hasunga said a total of 208,343 tonnes of cashew nuts worth Sh546.1 billion had been sold out of the 209,995 tonnes that were collected in the last 58 auctions. Regarding local cashew processors, he said the ministry of Industry and Trade is preparing a policy that would determine the supply of raw materials for domestic processing.
“We couldn’t agree on how raw cashews would be sold to them (local processors) – and, therefore, they had to purchase the merchandise like other buyers,” he said. “The envisaged policy will establish how domestic processing will prosper in order to make the country’s industrialization drive more meaningful,” the minister explained.
Without naming the companies, Mr Hasunga said they have penalized some of them over delayed payments to farmers.
“We will name them when tabling the season’s final report,” said Mr Hasunga who doubles as the Vwawa Constituency member of Parliament on the CCM ticket. Commenting on the 2019/20 cashew farming season, the Mamcu general manager, Protence Rwiza, said 72,000 tonnes of cashew nuts were sold by the Union, with the maximum price recorded being Sh2,784 per kilo.
“We postponed the January 17, 2020 auctions until January 24 this year to pave the way for farmers in possession of the produce to take them to the Amcos,” he said – adding that the challenge of delayed payments to farmers and availability of packaging materials were successfully addressed.
At the end of the day, the Union was left with 400,000 unused sacks which will be kept for the next harvest season.
The Tunduru Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Union (Tamcu) general manager, Imani Kalembo, said 468 tonnes of surplus cashew nuts have been sold out of the 23,000 tonnes that were anticipated.
“We expect to sell an additional 1,000 tonnes towards the end of the trading season, although buyers have started demanding their bonds back,” he said.
The government projected to harvest 290,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts (RCNs) in the 2019/20 farming season – which is 65,000 tonnes more than the 225,000 tonnes harvested during the 2018/19 season.
In the 2018/19 season, the government purchased all the cashew nuts from farmers at Sh2,300 per kilo in a measure that was intended to protect farmers after buyers offered low price during the initial auctions.
Sh722 billion was used to purchase cashew nuts during the season and some farmers’ claims on Sh16 billion-worth of cashew nuts are being verified before payment is effectuated.
The government earned $575 million in the 2017/18 trading season on cashew nut exports. This sum is roughly the equivalent of Sh1.3 trillion.