Dar es Salaam. Tanzania has exported over 213,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts (RCN) out of the 222,000 tonnes which were purchased by the government last season, according to the ministry of Agriculture.
In the event, it earned $251.7 million, which is equivalent to Sh578.9 billion at the exchange rate of Sh2,300 to the US dollar.
However, that sum was less than the $575 million (Sh1.3 trillion earned from the 2017/18 harvest.
The ministry also said that over 4,800 tonnes were given to domestic processors, out of which over 800 tonnes have already been processed for export and domestic consumption.
“We are looking for buyers of the remaining 4,000 tonnes. Some will be provided to local firms to strengthen the domestic processing capacity,” Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga told The Citizen yesterday.
However, the minister couldn’t confirm the earnings so far accrued, noting that consultation with the Industry and Trade ministry was required, as payment was effectuated after the consignments had been loaded for export.
On October 3 this year, the director of Information Services and chief government spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbasi, told a press conference that Sh720 billion was used to purchase 225,105 tonnes of RCN, including 2,139 tonnes that were purchased during the initial auctions.
“Over 211,000 tonnes of cashew nuts will be exported, including 107,187 tonnes that will pass through Dar es Salaam port and 104,400 through Mtwara port,” Dr Abbasi said.
Last harvesting season, the government excluded private players from buying cashews, accusing them of exploiting farmers. Instead, it bought the crop at Sh3,300 a kilo.
He said President John Magufuli’s directive for the release of Sh40 billion to pay cashew farmers would be done this week.
“The Ministry of Finance and Planning couldn’t finalise the process to transfer funds to the respective account because of the weekend break. All eligible farmers will receive their payments by end of this week,” he said.
In any case, farmers with doubtful outstanding arrears will be re-evaluated to ensure that only eligible farmers are paid their rightful dues, he said.
Mr Hasunga commended the agreement between farmers and buyers during the initial auctions held by the Tandahimba and Newala Cooperative Union (Tanecu) and the Masasi and Mtwara Cooperative Union (Mamcu) last Thursday in Newala and Masasi Districts were finalised.
“We hope that cashew nut prices will continue to stabilize. The government will ensure justice prevails and the product is sold to legitimate winners at the auctions,” he said.
He hinted that the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) has been directed to take legal measures against union officials who attempt to overturn the outcomes of the initial auctions.
The minister, however, didn’t provide more details on any such incidents.
He also noted that the third cashews auction slated to be held by Lindi Mwambao on Saturday was pushed to a latter date for lack of sufficient quantitities to warrant the auction.
However, Ruangwa, Nachingwea and Liwale Cooperative Union (Runali) were expected to hold their first auction yesterday in Ruangwa town. But more details were not available.
The first auctions held by Tanecu and Mamcu saw to over 20,000 tonnes of cashew nuts sold, but at a price that was 24.7 per cent lower compared with last season.
Speaking to The Citizen, Mr Hasunga said the government will take legal measures, including confiscating cashew nuts from people illegally participating in the business.
“Farmers are assured of payment within ten days after an auction. I commend the CBT, cooperatives, regional and district defence and security committees for ensuring transparency during initial auctions,” he said.
What farmers say
A member of the Matambale Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Amcos), Mr Waziri Matola, asked the government to ensure that what happened last season doesn’t recur.
“All parties should ensure price stability and that payment is made in full and on time,” he said.