Dar es Salaam — Over Sh35 billion has been paid to cashew nut farmers since the government decided to purchase the produce early last month, the government has said. The government's decision to purchase the crop this season came following a price dispute between farmers and traders.
Farmers boycotted low prices offered by traders during auctions, with the latter slow down their speed of purchasing the produce at minimum price of Sh3,000, a situation that irked the government. Following the situation, President John Magufuli was forced to lock out private buyers this season, directing the Cereals and Other Produce Board (CPB), the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB) and the Tanzania People's Defence Forces (TPDF) to carry out the cashew nut operation.
Speaking to The Citizen during an exclusive interview yesterday, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga said the money has been paid to 34,938 farmers from 146 verified Agricultural Marketing Co-operative Societies (Amcos).
He said by Saturday, last week, 212 Amcos were verified in Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma regions. According to him, the amount of money paid to farmers had increased, noting that the government targeted paying Sh10 billion per day. "On Friday, we paid Sh5 billion to farmers. However, the amount dropped to over Sh4 billion on Saturday because it was a half working day," he said in a telephone interview. He said already 10,769, 912 kilos of cashew had been transported by TPDF to storage warehouses located in Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma regions.
Mr Hasunga said the ministry would speed up the operation and complete paying all farmers by the end of this month. "We are expecting to increase the verification and payment process by starting to assess farmer's records in the Coast Region's Amcos, starting by warehouses located in Rufiji and Kibaha," he said. According to him, the exercise would be extended to Tanga, Singida, Morogoro and Dodoma regions after verification and payment processes have been consolidated in the Coast Region. "All farmers are assured of payment as directed by President Magufuli," he said.
Addressing cashew stakeholders at State House last month, President Magufuli said Tanzania cashew nut production forecast for the current season was 210,000 tonnes.
Therefore, the government was expected to spend Sh660 billion to purchase all cashews this season before processing them for export and domestic consumption.
Last month, Industry, Trade and Investment minister Joseph Kakunda told The Citizen that all cashews would be processed locally and that experts were evaluating the country's processing capacity.
However, cashew's production and export data in the Cashew nut Board of Tanzania (CBT) website shows that the government's decision means it has a mountain to climb as more produce is exported annually compared to that processed locally.
According to CBT statistics, 117,012.708 tonnes out of 130,123.778 tonnes produced in the 2013/14 season was exported, which is equivalent to 89.92 per cent of the export.
The report shows that 180,817.844 tonnes (about 91.35 per cent) and 153,087.745 tonnes (equivalent to 98.61 per cent) of total production in 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons respectively were exported.
Furthermore, statistics show that 254,912.380 tonnes
out of 265,237.845 tonnes of cashews (equivalent to 96.11 per cent) and
292,338.802 tonnes out of 313,826.386 tonnes (equal to 93.15 per cent)
respectively exported in 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons.