- It is implementing a new model of ensuring that cashewnut farmers have access to vital inputs in a deliberate effort to tweak production of the crop after three years of successive faIl.
Dar es Salaam. The government is implementing a new model of ensuring that cashewnut farmers have access to vital inputs in a deliberate effort to tweak production of the crop after three years of successive fall.
Available data show that there is a close link between farmers’ accessibility to inputs and a rise in production.
For instance, production rose to a pick of 313,826 tonnes during the 2017/18 season. During that season, farmers had received all their sulphur and liquid pesticides requirements by 100 percent. But the following season (2018/19) was characterized by politics over what used to be the major source of funds through which farmers accessed sulphur and liquid pesticides.
Apparently, awakened by massive farmers and export earnings from cashewnuts during the 2017/18 season, the government came up with a proposal to change the Cashewnut Industry Act (Cap,203) – through the Finance Bill 2018 - with a view to ensuring that the Cashew nut Export Levy was directed in the consolidated fund.
The move was a shift from the then situation whereby 65 percent of the crop export levy was remitted to farmers through the Cashew nut Board of Tanzania (CBT) and the government remained with 35 percent of it.
However, the proposal sailed through and became part and parcel of the Finance Act 2018. This was despite stiff resistance from legislators from the cashew nut growing regions. The outcome of the decision was not only a drop in farmers’ accessibility to the vital inputs but also a continuous fall in production, primarily because farmers were almost left to fend for themselves in as far as accessibility to inputs was concerned.
During the 2018/19 season, farmers accessed only 12,352 tonnes of surphur compared to 18,000 during the preceding season. The volume dropped further to 8,610 tonnes in 2019/20 and 8,731 tonnes in 2020/21. As for liquid pesticides, the volume rose from 310,000 litres during the 2017/18 to 339,009 litres and 448,258 litres during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons respectively before dropping to 182,438 litres in the 2020/21 season.
At the same time, actual production dropped to 225,154 tonnes, 232,682 and 206,719 tonnes in 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons respectively.
Agriculture minister Adolf Mkenda said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the government’s approach has now shifted to ensuring farmers had access to the inputs without necessarily requiring them (farmers) paying for them.
“Our approach is to ensure that farmers get the vital inputs without incurring cost,” he told editors from Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) yesterday.
MCL publishes The Citizen, Mwananchi, Mwanaspoti and runs Mwananchi Digital.
According to Prof Mkenda, the new approach brings together banks so they can issue Letters of Credit (LCs) to dealers who then procure the inputs and distribute them to farmers through close supervision of the CBT and farmers’ primary cooperative unions.
“This is the first year that we are doing it this way after realizing that telling farmers to source money so they can purchase inputs does not work,” said Prof Mkenda.
He said a number of banks have shown interest in supporting the system through issuance of LCs.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa is today (July 22) expected to meet with cashew nut stakeholders in Lindi and deliberate on issues pertaining to how to boost production of the crop, including farmers’ access to farm inputs.
Lindi Regional Commissioner Zainab Telack told Mwananchi newspaper yesterday that the meeting will specifically deliberate on distribution of pesticides and sulphur to farmers.
It is expected that the meeting will be attended by regional commissioners from cashew nut producing regions of Mtwara, Lindi, Ruvuma and Coast as well as leaders of farmers’ primary cooperative unions from the regions. It is anticipated that Masasi and Mtwara Cooperative Union (Mamcu) would strike a Sh59.6 billion deal - on behalf of all farmers’ cooperative unions - with five companies for the distribution liquid pesticides and sulphur to all farmers.
The companies include: Bajuta International, Benz Agro Star, Prosperity Agro star, Suba Agro na JM Traders.
Additional reporting by Mwanamkasi Jumbe in Mtwara