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Ruvuma avocado growers invite bank appraisers to assess needs

Thursday June 10 2021
AVOCADO PIC
By The Citizen Reporter

Songea. With avocado growing becoming an economic undertaking, farmers in Ruvuma Region now believe they can no longer farm it at the subsistence level, merely depending on meagre resources.

Tanzania has a high potential for exports of avocado which is already being considered to be the country’s latest ‘green gold’ discovery.

Close to 9,000 tonnes of avocados valued at $30 million were exported last year (2020), up from almost zero seven years ago.

It is against such a background that Lusitu Agro-Business Company and the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) are undertaking a project that seeks to turn avocado into a third cash crop in the region.

The campaign to introduce avocado as a cash crop in a largely conservative society, is spearheaded by Lusitu Agro-Business Company with the support of Sagcot and the avocado exporting companies: Tanzanice Co. Ltd and Pro-Organic Co. Ltd.

They want to ensure that at initial stage, some 2,500 farmers in the region start growing avocado for export to European markets.

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But farmers now want the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB) to inspect their farms to determine their loan requirements.

The Lusitu Agro-Business Managing Director Beno Mgaya told agricultural reporters here yesterday that seven out of the ten pioneer groups growing avocado in Songea District have resolved to invite TADB assessors to inspect their farms and suggest the kind of loans they need to grow the crop for local and export markets.

“We have ten pioneer groups with 200 members. Seven out of 10 with whom we have reviewed progress of their farming strategies needs loans as a form of external push to take off and grow avocado for export on a firm footing. We have advised them that at this juncture the bank to turn to is the TADB. Tanzanice and Pro-Organic have pledged to buy the entire crop for their European markets,” Mr Mgaya said

Growers have a ready market and, therefore, have a genuine cause to turn to TADB - because a farmer has to spend Sh1.2 million to prepare an acre for efficient avocado growing. Sh1.2 million is a big amount for Tanzanian smallholders who need bolstering by an agricultural lender. “That is why we suggest that TADB is the right bank at the moment.”

He said each farmer has contributed Sh105,000 as initial capital for seedlings, soil tests and proper planting of 100 seedlings in an acre.

Mr Mgaya said their company will cooperate fully with TADB officials in solving the farmers’ current challenges, stressing that TABD’s intervention will make a difference, whereby Ruvuma Region would have a third cash crop. “This is possible,” he said.

Mr Mgaya’s company spear-headed the growing of avocado and Irish potatoes in Njombe Region, significantly improving the lives of Njombe farmers by raising their incomes. It is trying to do the same in Ruvuma Region.

Last month Sagcot Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Kirenga said Sagcot will support fully the efforts of the Lusitu Agro-Business Company because, he said, it helping farmers grow a crop with a ready market. He called on other agricultural stakeholders to help Ruvuma farmers get a third cash crop, explaining that widespread production of avocado in the region will increase famers’ wealth and earn the nation foreign currency.

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