How Dar and Nairobi truce saved horticulture from ruin

Monday May 25 2020

 

By The Citizen Reporter

Arusha. The leading horticulture industry’s body Taha has applauded the Tanzania and Kenya’s truce, saying the deal has saved the multi-million dollar agricultural sub-sector and thousands of related jobs.

Latest data from the Agriculture ministry shows that horticultural export value had surged to $779 million in the 2018/19 financial year, up from $412 million in 2014/15 becoming the growth driver of the entire agricultural sector, contributing to overall agrarian exports standing at 38 per cent annually.

The subsector also employs more than four million Tanzanians, a majority being youths and women.

“We are very grateful to our two governments for amicably resolving the trade dispute occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic to allow a seamless cross-border movement of goods” said the Taha Group chief executive officer, Ms Jacquiline Mkindi, who represented Tanzania’s private sector at last week’s ministerial bilateral talks at Namanga border.

Ms Mkindi said the border wrangle had put Tanzania’s multi-million dollars horticulture industry at a crossfire, as the lion’s share of horticultural crops is exported through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and Mombasa port in Kenya.

“Had the cold war continued, horticulture would be the first to be affected, as we heavily rely on JKIA and Mombasa port as the main export outlets of our perishable crops to overseas markets,” she said.“The Dar/Nairobi truce leaves everyone the winner.

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It keeps the shelves of Kenya’s supermarkets stocked with our fruits, brings foreign currency to our economy, saves Tanzanian jobs and sustains farmers and investors”.

The two Governments, she said, should ensure that cargo trucks cross our borders smoothly and efficiently, calling for measures including the removal of any sorts of cargo restrictions and operating curfews to allow cross border trade grow.

“We shouldn’t allow cargo trucks filled with life-saving horticultural foods delayed due to cumbersome and bureaucratic procedures to cross to the either side of the border for excuse of crew’s Covid-19 testing. Not in our times, not into our region,” Mkindi stressed.

“Keeping a truck laden with vegetables, fruits or flowers at a border crossing for a day or two destroys perishable crops”, Ms Mkindi said.

Dar es Salaam and Nairobi have agreed that cargos and conveyors should be offloaded at destination unless there’s a special agreement with cargo owners.

In their final communiqué, Tanzania and Kenya agreed that vehicles should not be compelled to offload at the border as part of a wider deal to end the recent border crossing dispute over coronavirus testing between the two countries.

Farmers who undertake agricultural activities on either side of the border between Tanzania and Kenya would be allowed access to their farms after being identified by local leaders.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Mr James Macharia, said the two countries must unite to protect their trading interests and address common health concerns.

Historically, Kenya and Tanzania have been good trade partners, with a turnover of more than $500 million annually.