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Cashew growers upbeat over new seed varieties

Friday April 02 2021
cashew pic

Cashew nut farmers prepare their crop for weighing at Mbekenyera in Ruhangwa District, Lindi Region. PHOTO | FILE

By Rosemary Mirondo

Dar es Salaam. Some cashew nut farmers have expressed optimism about modern varieties of the produce, saying they are likely to improve the crop’s productivity.

Access to improved seeds has been one of the factors determining Tanzania’s agricultural productivity especially for smallholder farmers.

Researchers have also been intensifying efforts to come up with improved and hybrid varieties, targeting the market demand.

Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI- Naliendele Centre) says it developed and released to the public 54 improved cashew seed varieties between 2006 and 2017, which they say should revolutionise productivity of the cash crop.

According to the Naliendele Centre’s acting director, Mr Fortunus Kapinga, the aim is to improve productivity from one kilogramme per tree to at least 20kg per tree annually.

“The seeds are of bigger size, thereby assuring me of reliable market for my crops at the right time - and at the right price,” said Mangaka Agriculture Marketing Cooperatives (Amcos) secretary, Mr Rashid Mselewa.

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He said the improved seeds have reached some of the farmers in Nanyumbu District where “cashew nuts production yield has increased.

“I am able to pay for my family’s needs, including school fees for my children and other daily requirements, including preparing my farm for the next planting season,” he said.

A farmer from Hiyari Village, Mtwara Rural, Mr Michael Nkondola, said he has been accessing his seeds from Naliendele - and they have proved to be productive and pest resistant.

He expects his 40 acre farm will produce at least 80 sacks of cashew nuts when he starts harvesting nuts of the new seed varieties.

“The seeds are big; they are the right size that attracts markets,’ he said.

Another farmer from Maili Kumi, Mtwara Rural, Mr Ramadhani Bashiru, said when he was informed of the new improved seeds, he immediately purchased them.

He noted that the seeds are consistent and produce good quality nuts that are easy to sell.

“I have several farms but my 18 acre farm is able to produce between 25 and 80 kg of cashew nuts from just one tree,” he said.

Tanzania is one of the largest cashew producers in Africa, with production reaching 23,681 tonnes in the 2019/20 season.

The Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) projected lower production in the 2020/21 season.

The cash crop is mostly cultivated in the southern coastal regions of Mtwara, Lindi, Ruvuma and Coast.

Mr Kapinga told The Citizen that the quality seeds met all standards, including high productivity.

He said the nut size from the improved varieties assures farmers of reliable markets for their cashew nuts.

According to him, the markets are selective, believing that the smaller the size of the nut, the lower the quality - and, thus, the price!

“Cashew nuts are graded in the market by their number of nuts to a kilo. If there are 200 or more nuts in one kilogramme, then they are graded as low quality,” he said - noting that if 100 or less nuts make a kilo, they are graded as good nuts.

That is because it’s cheaper to process a few nuts compared to many, as the latter could lead to depreciation of processing machines, and more labour force is required.

He said that initially there were seed farms in the areas of Mkuranga, Naliendele Mtwara, Tandahimba, Lindi and Tunduru. But increasing demand made them to expand to Chambazi in Bagamoyo, Mtopwa in Newala, Nachingwea and Tunduru.

“Following the increase in demand, we also started other farms in Manyoni district, Tumbi, Tabora, Namtumbo in Ruvuma and Mbinga,” he said. According to him, they started farms in every region where the crop is planted to ensure easy of availability and access.

He noted that after research and through use of technology, it was discovered that the crop could be expanded to other parts of the country taking into consideration the ecological requirements.

He named the requirements as soil that is not too heavy. The depth of soil should not be too shallow while temperatures should preferably be between 20 and 30 degrees.

He also said rain should not be continuous, but evenly distributed. “It should be defined between dry and wet seasons,’ he stressed.

“Therefore, there is no need to limit the crop to only a few regions along the coast because, as long as the ecology is favourable, the crop would thrive,” he said.

In view of the above, he said, they now have seed farms in 17 regions including Morogoro, Tabora, Dodoma, part of Shinyanga and Kilimanjaro, Singida, Kigoma, Katavi, Rukwa, Songwe, Mbeya, Iringa, Njombe and Ruvuma.

He added that they also have cashew nut development centres that also serve as cashew nut seed farms in Mkuranga, Naliendele, Tunduma, Nachingwea, Tunduru and Mtopwa whose objective is to ensure that Tanzania becomes a reliable source of planting materials - and also ensure that the right technology is transferred to farmers.