What Sh200 billion additional funding for agriculture means

Dar es Salaam. The government will spend Sh198 billion more on agriculture development projects in the next financial year after increasing its total budget for the sector to Sh970 billion.

Key development projects to be executed include expanding irrigation infrastructure to stimulate agricultural productivity and economic growth.

It will be the second year in a row that the agriculture budget will be greatly increased as part of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s goal of boosting productivity in the sector that employs 65 percent of the country’s households.

The development budget for the sector will in 2023/24 rise by 34.7 percent to Sh767.84 billion from Sh569.97 billion that was passed for the current financial year.

Requesting Parliament to endorse Sh970.79 billion for the next financial year, Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe yesterday listed seven priority areas that will receive the lion’s share of development financing.

Irrigation, which was allocated Sh361.5 billion in development funding in the current financial year, remains one of the priority areas and will in the next financial year receive Sh299.96 billion.

Outlining other priority areas, Mr Bashe said, “Funds have also been allocated to strengthen agricultural research, crop storage infrastructure, seed production, enhanced access to crop markets and subsidies and execution of the Build Better Tomorrow (BBT) programme.”

With the Sh361.5 billion allocation, the ministry is expected to implement 69 irrigation projects on 95,005 hectares and increase the irrigation network from 727,280.6 hectares to 822,285.6 hectares.

The government’s aim is to increase land under irrigation area to 1,200,000 hectares by 2025.

Mr Bashe said by April, 2023, 48 out of 69 contracts worth Sh234.127 billion had been signed for implementation on 58,807 hectares, which is equivalent to 70 percent of the projects.

“Sh85.159 billion has been paid to contractors who continue submitting interim certificates. All projects are expected to be completed within 18 to 24 months,” he said.

Mr Bashe added that 22 other contracts worth Sh25 billion have been signed for feasibility studies and design work related to 22 strategic basins and work was already underway.

He said the ministry through the National Irrigation Commission (NIRC) has inspected ten irrigation schemes covering 20,573 hectares that are set for construction in 2022/23.

“In order to ensure irrigation schemes operate efficiently and sustainably, the ministry through NIRC inspected irrigation infrastructure in 137 schemes located in Morogoro, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Iringa, Ruvuma and Mbeya regions.

“The inspection has revealed poor maintenance of irrigation infrastructure and NIRC is now providing education and training in supervision, operation and scheme maintenance to irrigation unions and leaders of farmers’ groups in these areas,” Mr Bashe said.

The ministry through NIRC has also purchased 53 vehicles, which is equal to 139.5 percent of the target, at the cost of Sh8.339 billion.

Fifteen plants, or 125 percent of the target, have also been procured, as well as 17 heavy trucks for construction and rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure at the cost of Sh15.60 billion.

The ministry through NIRC has opened 121 district irrigation offices, which is 82.87 percent of the target, and recruited 320 new workers.

Mr Bashe outlined five priority areas in implementation of the 2023/24 plans that are aimed at transforming agriculture and improving farmers’ lives through Agenda 10/30.

“The priorities that will be executed under 26 strategies include increasing productivity and production as well as the number of decent jobs and enhancing youth’s and women’s participation in the sector.

“Others are improving food and nutrition security; strengthening access to market, agriculture financing and crop exports, as well as strengthening cooperative development,” he added.

Mr Bashe said production of traditional cash crops including cashew nuts, cotton, tobacco, coffee, tea, sugar, sisal and pyrethrum is in 2023/24 expected to increase to 1.579 million tonnes from 951,727.77 tonnes recorded in 2022/23.

The ministry also plans to increase the value of crop exports from $1.2 billion to $5 billion by 2030.

“In 2023/24, the ministry through its institutions, boards and the private sector will increase crop exports by five percent to $1.457 billion.

“Export of traditional cash crops are set to increase as follows: cotton from $227.1 million to $238.46 million and tobacco from $355 million to $372.75 million.” Mr Bashe said.

Industries, Trade, Agriculture and Livestock Committee chairman David Kihenzile read the committee’s recommendations saying despite the budgetary increase, Tanzania was far behind the Maputo (2003) and Malabo (2014) declarations.

He said the declarations require member countries to set 10 percent of the national budget for the agriculture sector.

“The committee advises the government to continue setting funds and release the money to enhance timely implementation of intended goals and strategies,” he said.

Regarding provision of subsidized fertiliser, Mr Kihenzile said farmers’ education should be increased over the presence of subsidies as well as the proper use of fertiliser and pesticides.

He said the ministry should coordinate to ensure there is enough access to fertilizers and pesticides in a respective season in order to increase farming efficiency.

“The committee advises the government to set a budget for recruiting enough extension officers and continue strengthening digital use for the provision of extension services in the country,” he said.

Regarding post-harvest losses, Mr Kihanzile said the existing 35pc was shocking and adversely affected the country’s food security and access to food in the country.

“The committee advises the government to continue strengthening food storage infrastructures by constructing warehouses at the village, wards and districts levels especially in places with high crops production in order to strengthen food security and reduce post-harvest losses,” he said.

Regarding the BBT, he said the committee recommends the programme sustainability, broadened to all country zones and that an emphasis should be paid to areas with vast water sources.

Mr Kihenzile said land ownership plan during the program should be done cautiously and that market access to produced products should be reliably done according to the value chain.

According to him, strategies should be put in place for the youth who have acquired skills to replicate and benefit others in different parts of the country.

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