Tanzania will not restrict cross-border food trade, says Samia

President Samia Suluhu Hassan inquires from Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe about improved sunflower seeds when she visited various pavilions during Farmers Day (Nane Nane) at John Mwakiangale grounds in Mbeya on August 8, 2023. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

What you need to know:

  • The president says the government’s aim is to better regulate the process and ensure that the nation’s agricultural resources are utilised optimally.

Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan said yesterday the government has not imposed restrictions on cross-border trade involving food items.

She said the government’s intention is to introduce a formalised system to better regulate the process and ensure that the nation's agricultural resources are utilised optimally.

President Hassan was speaking in Mbeya, where Farmers Day (Nane Nane) was marked nationally.

This year’s Nane Nane theme was “Youth and Women are the Strong Foundation of Sustainable Food Systems” and was aimed at highlighting and recognising the significant contribution of these groups in agricultural activities.

President Hassan said a formalised system will enable the government to closely monitor the volume of agricultural produce being exported and the corresponding revenue generated.

“I direct the Ministry of Agriculture to collaborate with the President's Office – Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) – the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), and Immigration to establish a unified system of overseeing the export of agricultural products so that farmers can benefit from their work.”

The Head of State added that she was not satisfied with the current system where buyers directly approach farmers without any regulation.

“Our agenda is to increase the contribution of agriculture to national income to ten percent by 2030. That is why we have been focusing our efforts on the sector. The government has taken several measures to this end, including increasing the budget for this sector.”

According to President Hassan, the government's goal is to utilise all 29.4 million hectares that suitable for irrigation farming.

Currently, only 727,280 hectares are being used for irrigation, leaving 28.6 million hectares lying idle.

“In order to advance irrigation, I direct the ministry to continue the significant work we have done and are continuing to do. For completed scheme projects, users will be charged fees that will help us maintain and develop other schemes,” she said.

President Hassan also noted that the government will continue to support extension officers by providing them with work equipment, transportation, and housing.

"My call to extension officers is to ensure they stay at the designated stations to provide farmers and livestock keepers with modern production expertise and techniques," she said.

The President also witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Build Better Tomorrow (BBT) programme between the National Service (JKT), the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry for Livestock and Fisheries.

BBT seeks to promote Tanzanian youth’s engagement in agribusiness for sustainable and improved livelihoods whereas a part of the programme, the government selects youth are allocated up to ten acres each, which they will end up owning.

Under the programme, the government has established a Youth Guarantee scheme and Loan Facility for youth under the Agricultural Input Trust Fund.

Minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe highlighted the government's initiative to provide subsidies for fertiliser, which has contributed to an increase in various crop production and the nation's capacity to export abroad.

The minister stated that fertiliser usage for the 2021/2022 farming season, before subsidies, was 363,599 tonnes. However, by the closing of the 2022/2023 farming season, fertiliser usage had risen to 580,529 tonnes.

The farmed area of land was 10.4 million hectares in the previous year, whereas, in the current year 2022/2023, the cultivated area has reached 11.1 million hectares.

"Food production before the fertiliser subsidy was 17.1 million tonnes, and now the production has surged to 20.4 million tonnes," the minister said.

Mr Bashe said during the 2021/2022 season, the country exported 223,000 tonnes of maize, while in the 2022/2023 season, it increased to 415,000 tonnes of maize.

The export of avocados has also increased from 9,000 tonnes to 29,031 tonnes, which the Minister attributed to the President's efforts in supporting international business.

In the case of tobacco, productivity has improved from 65,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes.

"The production has grown significantly, surpassing the capacity of commercial banks to pay farmers. Nonetheless, I am thankful for the steps taken, and up to now, farmers have sold produce valued at $240 million, with over 80 percent already paid. The remaining farmers will receive their funds by August 15, 2023," he stated.

Minister Bashe mentioned that in the upcoming farming season, the government plans to allocate over Sh200 billion for fertiliser subsidies. This move is expected to increase fertiliser usage to reach 650,000 tonnes.

Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Abdallah Ulega, stated that the ministry continues to recognise and register livestock in the electronic system to have accurate information and meet the demand of foreign markets.

He said the ministry is looking forward to establishing digital auctions.

“Electronic registration helps to control and manage undisciplined livestock keepers who engage in activities that violate regulations,” he said.

Regarding fisheries Mr Ulega said the sector is mainly focusing on small-scale operations, in the current fiscal year budget, the government target on empowering fishermen and aquatic resource growers to access modern fishing inputs and tools, including 160 boats and 893 fish traps, through Extended Credit Facility– (ECF)

The minister also noted that the government through the ministry has allocated enough funds to support the fishermen and groups of traders in the sector through financing and credits.

Ministry data shows that 35 percent of Tanzanian households engaged in livestock husbandry, among them 39.3 percent are involved in cattle, 36.2 percent in goat, 13.5 percent in sheep keeping, and 10.9 percent in pig keeping. Additionally, 55.4 percent of these households also engage in poultry farming.

Before making her speech, President Hassan visited several pavilions whereby at Yara Tanzania, the managing director, Mr Winstone Odhiambo, said their company had played its part to ensure that Tanzania has sufficient fertilisers despite the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war.

He said production of fertilisers locally had helped to reduce dependence on imports and eventually lessened the effects of external shocks.

“Our efforts to produce fertiliser locally are meant to ensure that as a country we have food security by increasing production of strategic products that will shape our economy,” Mr Odhiambo told President Hassan.

During her visit to the NMB Bank, President Hassan commended the lender for its contribution to the agriculture, fisheries, livestock and forestry sectors, including the flagship Building a Better Tomorrow (BBT) programme.

The BBT focuses on empowering youth and women for a better future.

The President spoke at the NMB Bank’s pavilion after the bank’s head of AgriRetail Department, Mr Nsolo Mlozi, informed her that the lender has already disbursed loans amounting to over Sh319 billion since July 2021, with an interest rate of nine percent per year, in the agricultural sector, which includes farming, fishing, livestock and forestry.

"We have disbursed loans amounting to over Sh1.61 trillion in the Agriculture sector over the past six consecutive years. In the BBT programme, we have allocated Sh20 billion since March,” said Mr Mlozi.

And in response, the President said: "First, I thank you very much and congratulations for your efforts in the Agriculture sector. Please continue to support the government's initiatives. If you can lower the interest rates for agricultural loans, let the Tanzanian farmers benefit even more," said President Samia.