Leishman: the sky is the limit for agriculture in Tanzania

Hughes pix

Tanzania is an agrarian country with history unveiling that even the country’s economic trajectory under MwalimuNyerere was directed towards such a path.

Wednesday December 15 2021

Tanzania is an agrarian country with history unveiling that even the country’s economic trajectory under MwalimuNyerere was directed towards such a path.

Being Tanzania’s economic bedrock by employing a substantial workforce (close to 65 per cent of the population) while contributing 80 percent of the country’s food, the sector continued to carry the government’s higher expectations to date.

In terms of growth, according to the Hughes Agricultural (Tanzania) Ltd’s Country Manager, Stuart Leishman, the sector is still at its infancy stage compared to Kenya – based on the metrics of what these sibling nations achieved so far.

Optimistically, Mr Leishman, however, sees a lot of greater prospects of the agriculture sector in the country looking at available opportunities for growth.

And that is initially on the back of landmass at 945,000 square km.

Over and above that, arable land rep-resents 50 per cent.

As if there were no tomorrow, today Tanzania is ahead of Kenya in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contributions through agriculture.

In addition, he unfolds that, “Out of 49 per cent, less than one third per cent of the land has been cultivated. All the more, 20 percent of the cultivated land have been done with tractors, 80 percent with manual with animal.” Given an exponential growth of agriculture sector by 30 per cent in 2020 and at least 17 per cent this year, Leishman hopes for an aggressive trend next year as he forecast the spike of up to 40 per cent.

“These and other more impressive figures are what helped me show to my group of companies that the future for Tanzania is agriculture,” revealed Hughes Agricultural (Tanzania) Ltd boss while admitting that, “there is no industry in Tanzania that you will never see its end in.

”And that threshold has largely influenced the agri-firm’s strong presence in the sector with mega investments to make.

He believes that Tanzania, like the rest of African countries, has the internal capacity to shift from import to export economy, should it produce its own food and surplus for trading.“I want to see food security and Tanzania feeding Tanzania,” added Mr Leishman.

When Tanzania’s sugar production exceeds the national consumption, and country exports the merchandise to East African region and beyond, he is of the opinion that’s would be its turning point.

Hughes Agricultural (Tanzania) Ltd position in growing agriculture sector

Mr Leishman clearly asserted how they struggled at first glance with the size of the country.

Into this nearly 70 million populated country, exploring their target audience and needs as scattered as they are, it was confusing thing to do. “We tried a number of approaches to address their problems, but, all of that, were to no avail,” he said.

With all that efforts gone astray, the company has now sought different ways – expanding the realm of cover-age by opening upcountry branches, being the key among its crusades. On the grounds of scalability and ease access to existing units, operations and customers, they have targeted three key areas with Kilombero Sugar – the largest sugar site in the country.

Around the area, they have spotted a large customer base and he believes that by going to that valley, they are moving closer to the adjacent community from which they can provide them with agricultural implements, parts, service kits and financing.

“If we are three kilometers away from farmers, it is so much easier for them to rush few minutes to our branches for a spare compared to boarding commuter buses to Dar es Salaam or elsewhere for spare search,” he cemented. Second location is Kibaigwa.

The area is an administrative ward in the Kongwa district of the Dodoma Region of Tanzania. According to the 2002 census, the ward has a total population of 15,426. From outward appearance, it is just a normal place but is highly of green practices as you leave the place, narrates Mr Leishman. Upon government’s shifting to Dodoma capital, the place is short of agri—centres but replete with trucks, and this has led to the company’s entry.The third one, is Kahama.

Same story like the rest of locations. The area is full of agri—businesses but with few actors and so their presence will catalyze the growth of the sector in the area.

“That’s just for this year but next year we will open other new seven branches, however, we are tweaking few things before opening,” he added while unfolding that they have a plan in place to open one in Babati after an intensive talk with the respective District Commissioner.

Tracking progress

Despite that being the difficult part, but it doesn’t shrug off their efforts to do so, and through a consortium of financial partners it work with, it receives a regular report on the progress of smallholders from those entities.

Mr Leishman hopes that visiting customers will soon be ingrained in its day-to-day operations as the strategy for opening more branches draw to a close. “It is far easier to weigh growth and profit margin of each farmer as you stay closer to their activities.”

Living legacies

Mr Leishman aspires to see the regional expansion of their endeavours continue in line with increased access to agri—financing by the underserved farmers.

 On top of that, he can’t wait to see how Hughes becoming part of the desirable change in the agriculture and finally witnessing that “TZ feeding TZ” drive coming to a quick success.

Challenges and way forward

According to him, one of the huge challenges that facing emerging farmers these days is financing.

Commercial banks have to increase improve flexibility smallholders to agri—financing schemes as mostly finding difficulty to approach these financiers with proper plan to streamline their agricultural activities and repayment schedule.

“We are looking to increase our panel of bank to 6 this year including commercial banks and Lease Financiers and we plan to help farmers’ access mechanization financing from any bank of their choice through Hughes Agricultural (Tanzania) Ltd,” furthered Mr Leishman.