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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ad hoc decisions blamed for agricultural failure



Almost 80 per cent of Tanzanians live in rural areas and many of them were poor.

Unplanned trade policies, including the recent temporary ban of maize exports, are deemed as the major reasons why this financial year’s intended targets in the agriculture sector will not be met.

Stakeholders in the grain sub-sector met in Dar es Salaam on Saturday to discuss the implications of East Africa Community (EAC) member states budgets FY2011/12 and said that the ban has denied farmers their much needed money.

“Thanks to this ban, illegal activities such as smuggling is on the rise and consequent to this extra costs are now being incurred by the government to follow up this,” Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA) Assistant Researcher, Mr Jamal Msami said.

Mr Msami said that statistically the government historically does very little in helping its farmers that are mostly small scale and couldn’t fathom why it became its concern to intervene in where farmers sell their produce.

He said analyzing previous budgets for the country, it was evident that the budget allocations is generally the same, thus making the possibility of meeting the targets annually almost impossible.

The government has allocated about 20bn/- to the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to enable it continue purchase food grain to the farmer at reasonable price. The capacity of the reserve is 200,000 tonnes.

The research analyzed that for the 44 million populations, should the country fall prey to famine, then each person will roughly have 2-3kg. “The government has to take proactive steps to boost the agriculture sector.

If you ask me there are many counterproductive policies in the country, the maize export ban being one of them,” he said. Echoing this, the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) Vice-Chair, Mr Andy Dale said through the export ban, the government showed it has no concept on what private sector is and the ban was a loud message that this sector isn’t welcome to do business in the country.

Mr Dale said the policy is making the lives of many farmers especially the small holder impossible to live when you take into consideration that they had secured loans and signed contracts of the deliverance of the produce which they can no longer do.

“What the government has done is marginalized the farmers and killing the industry. How does one make money in a country that is clearly failing? This move has destroyed markets and this has dire effects to producers,” he said.

National Microfinance Relationship Manager, Ms Yvonne Kabadi concurred that indeed the export ban had dire consequences on farmers and that banks had to come to their rescue by rescheduling their loans.

Ms Kabadi said that the interest on their loans had already started piling up and to rescue them from selling their collateral, humane measures needed to be taken. “We have witnessed what this ban is doing to the people.

It leaves one to wonder if the government really has good advisors before passing out policies,” she wondered. The one day symposium organized by the EAGC brought together grain sub-sector stakeholders to discuss the implications of the EAC budgets and workout lobbying strategies to ensure that their views are incorporated when the budget process are being prepared.

The EAGC Executive Director, Mr Gerald Masila said that this year’s budget hadn’t included any submissions of the grain sector and that the council was primarily formed to be the mouthpiece of the stakeholders.

Mr Masila, however, said that following the intense discussions that came about from the export ban, there was need to formulate position papers showing the stand of those affected and seeking ways out of it.

The Actionaid Country Director, Ms Aida Kiangi agreed that there was a need for the stand much as it was very late and that it was saddening to see such action being directed to the very people who feed the country.

Ms Kiangi said that the budget estimates forever forgot farmers and evidence showed that more investments in the country were moving further away from the green sector which was scary.

“The biggest problem going on in the agriculture sector is that there is too much talk but no one walking the talk. Believe it or not Tanzania is very soon heading towards a nation of importers of food,” she said.

Stakeholders unanimously agreed that there was need to borrow a leaf from the recent Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) and fuel companies crisis of putting pressure on the government to rectify their policies. They suggested that there should be trading financing systems in place as well.

By MASEMBE TAMBWE, Tanzania Daily News

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