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Tanzania government lists priorities to give agriculture a push

The ministry of Agriculture yesterday outlined seven areas the government will prioritise in the 2021/22 financial year to boost growth of the key economic sector.

They include research, seed development and extension services. Others are increasing the size of land for irrigation farming, strengthening markets for agricultural crops, improving access to inexpensive loans for funding agricultural, and improving preparedness against invasion of pests and crop diseases.

Agriculture minister Adolf Mkenda outlined the priorities in the Parliament in Dodoma when tabling his docket’s Sh294.162 billion budget for 2021/22.

He said the priorities were prepared based on the Five Year National Development Plan endorsed by the Parliament in February, 2021 as well as the CCM Election Manifesto 2020-2025.

They also abide by instructions issued by President Samia Suluhu Hassan issued in her maiden speech in Parliament on April 22, 2021 and the emphasis made by the CCM secretary general, Daniel Chongolo, during his first press conference here on May 20, 2021.

In her speech, President Hassan said inefficiency was the main challenge facing the country’s agriculture, pledging that investment in the area will be made in the next five years to improve productivity.

Mr Chongolo instructed the ministry to indicate in its budget, how directives have been directed.

Yesterday, Prof Mkenda said the first strategic priority in order to increase efficiency in the sector was to put emphasis on research through the Tanzania Agricultural Research institute (Tari).

“The government has increased Tari’s budget from Sh7.35 billion in 2020/21 Fiscal Year to Sh11.63 billion in the 2021/22 Financial Year,” he said.

He said through Section 26(1) of Tari Act (No. 10 of 2016), an Agricultural Research Development Fund (ARDF) will be established to generate funds for sustainable research.

Furthermore, he said seed multiplication was the second priority in order to reduce the country’s reliance on seeds imports, expounding that 13 seeds farms owned by the Agricultural Seeds Agency (Asa) will be developed through provision of irrigation infrastructure through the Irrigation Development Fund (IDF).

“The budget for crops seeds has been increased from Sh5.42 billion in the 2020/21 Financial Year to Sh10.58 billion in the 2021/2022 Fiscal Year. We will uphold our cooperation with the private sector in production of better seeds,” he said.

Regarding improving extension services which is the ministry’s third priority area, he said its budget has been increased from Sh603 million in the 2020/21 financial year to Sh11.5 billion in the FY-2021/22.

He said the funds will be used – among other things – for purchasing 1,500 motorbikes, soil testing equipment, provision of extension kits, smartphones and establishment of illustration farms by extension officers.

“Dodoma, Singida and Simiyu regions have been chosen for the pilot. They have opportunities to produce cooking oil production seeds crops including sunflower and cotton,” he said.

He said strengthening irrigation agriculture was another strategic priority area, stakeholders investment will be mobilized as well as completing construction of 13 Asa owned irrigation schemes through the IDF.

Irrigation infrastructures will be rehabilitated, ongoing projects completed, large dams constructed and carry feasibility studies for the new projects, according to him.

Regarding markets for agricultural crops, Prof Mkenda said the ministry will coordinate partnership between local crop traders and their counterparts from countries with higher demands including South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Saudi Arabia, United Arabic Emirates (UAE), Mozambique, Kenya, Vietnam and China.

“The ministry is continuing with the coordination for a $42 million investment of a sprouted grain seeds company in Dodoma with a 35,000 tonnes capacity of barley. The Cereals and Other Produce Board (CPB) has entered a contract with farmers for procurement of 21,600 tonnes of wheat,” he said.

He said the ministry will continue coordinating agreement between farmers and processors to buy all locally produced wheat before the importation.

According to him, the ministry’s sixth priority was improving funding in the agriculture sector, saying a team led by deputy minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe involving heads of various financial institutions was formed to pass through crop value chains and advise the government.

He said another team of experts was passing through and analysing tax systems in the sector in order to attract more investment in the value chain, noting that it has started working on barley sunflower and loans surety.

The seventh strategic priority according to him was increasing the country’s capacity to fight invasive pests and birds such as the desert locusts, larvae, quelea quelea and many others.

“The budget in the area has been increased from Sh150 million in 2020/21 to Sh3 billion in the 2021/22 Fiscal Year. An aircraft will be bought to strengthen aerial operations,” he said.

The submitted budget shows that out of the 294.162 billion requested budget, Sh211.248 billion was intended for implementation of development projects with the remaining Sh82.914 billion for recurrent expenditure.

The budget is Sh64.332 billion more as compared to Sh229.83 billion approved for the 2020/21 Fiscal Year which is equivalent to 28 percent.

The parliamentary committee for Agriculture, Livestock and Water vice chairman Almas Maige said the committee recommended the government to strengthen the sector’s budget, empower extension officers and produce better seeds.

“The Cashewnuts Industry Development Trust Fund (CIDTF) should be reinstated, challenges on post-harvest losses, provision of loans to small scale farmers and grievances facing cooperative unions should be addressed,” he said.

Mr Luhaga Mpina (Kisesa-CCM) said high seed prices and exporting raw products exploited farmers and denied Tanzanians with job opportunities.

“Why we don’t make decisions similar to those we took to implementation of electricity and roads projects in order to build enough industries. If we are incapable to operate, they should be given individual Tanzanians,” he said, adding.

“We can also provide soft loans to capable Tanzanians to start processing factories in order to adversely benefit out citizens.”

He observed that the country’s unsupportive tax regime that massively taxes locally produced crops, while giving exemptions to imports was killing our industries.

Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla (Nzega Rural-CCM)called on the government to invest in irrigation agriculture and term it the legacy of the sixth phase administration due to failure of agriculture that depend on rainfall.

Ms Aida Khenani (Nkasi North-Chadema) urged the government to invest in agricultural research, saying it was difficult for the country to compete if 60 percent of seeds used in the country are imported.

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