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  • Tanzania: Embassy Wades Into Cashew Nut Transport Dispute

    Dec 2nd, 2016

    Dar es Salaam — The Vietnamese embassy has asked the government to allow traders to transport cashew nuts by road to Dar es Salaam Port to enable them meet their obligations to customers and lenders. The appeal came after a Vietnamese company, Starnuts, failed to transport 3,700 tonnes of cashew nuts because the vessels used to ferry the commodity to Dar es Salaam were reportedly booked until January.

    The Mtwara regional administration has banned the transportation of cashew nuts by road for various reasons, including ensuring that traders pay all the requisite taxes and levies. Traders buying cashew nuts in Mtwara Region are required to transport the commodity by sea through Mtwara Port. The First Secretary in the Vietnamese embassy in Dar es Salaam, Mr Ton Ho Tri Dzung, told The Citizen that Starnuts had planned to purchase 22,000 tonnes of cashew nuts this season, but this would not be possible because of the ban on transportation by road.

    He appealed for the ban to be lifted to enable Vietnamese buyers to transport cashew nuts by road to Dar es Salaam for onward shipment to Vietnam. Mr Ton said there was sabotage in the allocation of vessels to traders, with shipping firms colluding with some businesspeople to deny others service."This is not acceptable in a free market economy. Transporters should serve clients equally and dirty games should be discouraged," he said. But Mtwara Regional Commissioner Halima Dendego poured cold water on hopes that the road transport ban would be lifted following an outcry by local and foreign cashew nut buyers.

    "They (buyers) should forget about transporting cashew nuts by road. They should also stop telling the government what to do, and should instead comply with procedures and regulations," she said. Starnuts country manager Omega Mmari said ships had been leaving Mtwara Port half empty, contrary to claims that they were fully laden with cashew nuts purchased by other buyers. "We believe that our company is being sabotaged by other cashew nut buyers who see us as a threat," he said.

    But Mr Krishna Kumar, manager of PIL Tanzania Line, which transports by sea to Dar es Salaam the bulk of cashew nuts bought in Mtwara, refuted claims of sabotage, saying shipping services were limited because of the port's low capacity. "Each of our vessels has a capacity of 1,300 containers, but we only load between 700 and 800 containers because the harbour's depth doesn't allow the ships to be loaded to their maximum capacity.

    "That's why other shipping lines avoid Mtwara Port because there are a lot of challenges that delay ships compared with other ports where it takes a maximum of three days for a vessel to be fully loaded, he said. Mr Kumar said new customers were the worst affected because they were not aware of the port's low capacity and fail to plan accordingly. Reached for comment, acting Mtwara port manager Stella Katondo dismissed claims that the harbour was shallow. "The current depth is 9.5 metres, which is enough for large ships to dock and be loaded to capacity," she said. The number of shipping lines using the port has increased to four in recent months. Apart from PIL, other firms operating out of the port are African Shipping, Maersk and CMA-CGM.

    Ms Katondo added that two more shipping lines would start to use the port in the near future She said the problem was that almost all traders were insisting on using PIL despite other shipping firms being available, adding that the port does not load cashew nuts on ships without having proof of the required taxes having been paid. "Buyers need to understand that there are procedures that must be followed such as paying taxes in advance and ensuring that the relevant documents are in order before handing over their cargo to the port for loading onto ships." Ms Katondo added that the port was prepared to handle 150,000 tonnes of cashew nuts this season, up from last year's 112,000 tonnes.