Ministry reviews Sh16bn cashew payments as PM issues new order

Sunday January 5 2020

 

Dar es Salaam. The ministry of Agriculture is still evaluating cashew sales to the government in the 2018/19 season before making final payments.

This comes just a day after Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa directed the ministry to conclude paying cashew farmers unpaid monies amounted to three percent of all payments.

Mr Majaliwa made the statement on Friday during his meeting with cashew farmers from Ruangwa, Masasi and Tandahimba districts hinting that 97 per cent of all eligible farmers have been paid.

Farmers met the premier in order to explain social and economic hardships they were facing following delayed payment.

The Premier assured farmers that the government was charged to protect rights of citizens, noting that everybody would be treated justly.

But, yesterday, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga told The Citizen that the three percent referred by the premier amounted to Sh16 billion.

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“The government has paid Sh707.8 billion out of Sh723 billion required, therefore we are supposed to make the remaining payment of Sh16 billion,” he said in a telephone interview.

Government sources in the ministry shows that the Sh707.8 billion payment made is equivalent to 217,786 tonnes of raw cashew nut (RCN) out of 222,561.1 tonnes collected by the last season.

He said the government’s evaluation team was still assessing eligibility of unpaid farmers, noting that payment would be concluded after the exercise has been completed.

“We have received Premier’s directive. We are going to speed up evaluation and finalize the payment immediately after securing money from the Ministry of Finance and Planning,” he said.

He said available reports show that the government had completed paying all cashew farmers for 2018/19 season, noting that however claims kept resurfacing that there were still farmers who were owed outstanding amounts.

Mr Hasunga said investigation team was formed on November 17, 2019 to establish whether there were no double payments made and whether farmers claiming to have not been paid supplied the product to the government through Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (Amcos).

“Payment and evaluation processes were not suspended by formation of this team. The teams are active as they continue fulfilling their responsibilities,” he said.

Mr Hasunga directed a team formed in November last year to investigate reported ‘fraud’ in the cashew nut 2018/19 trading season.

The team was charged to investigate Sh222.328 million ‘fraud’ paid to Sanga Sanga Amcos in Coast Region after providing wrong information. Reports from the ministry say the Amcos collected 212 kilogrammes of cashews, but it overstated by 7,000 kilo.

“Also, the Amcos stated that it supplied 244 kilogrammes of standard grade cashews, instead of under grade, leading to payment of Sh222.328 million,” according to a statement from the ministry.

The team was directed to handover its report to the minister by January 15, 2020. It is also investigating Sh1.6 billion ghost payment made to Tandahimba District cashew farmers in Mtwara Region.

The team is required to assess names of farmers from the Amcos to cooperative unions, then to the Cereals and Other Produce Board (CPB) and later to the banks payment systems.

“It will enable the ministry to establish whether the payment was done through farmer’s bank accounts and the level of withering of produced cashews,” according to the ministry.