Dodoma — TANZANIA Coffee Board has been directed to investigate and take necessary legal measures including prosecution of cooperative union leaders and unscrupulous businessmen involved in a cartel cheating farmers of coffee market prices and other irregularities.
"There is a problem whereby some cooperative leaders are involved in a cartel that buys coffee locally instead of directly exporting abroad as endorsed by the government through Ex-Kemondo arrangement," said Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng Christopher Chiza while supporting his Deputy, Adam Malima.
The deputy minister was responding to the main questions from Mkenge lawmaker (CCM), Assumpter Mshama who complained about noticeable irregularities within Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU).
MrMalima came under-fire from Ms Mshama and from Muleba North lawmaker (CCM), Charles Mwijage for giving a controversial response relating to quality of Robusta coffee and low price being paid by KCU compared to Ugandan traders.
"I am deeply saddened by the Deputy Minister's response because what he has said is incorrect," argued Mshama emotionally while pointing out that while Ugandan traders are paying up to 1,500/- per kilogramme, the cooperative union is doing 1,100/- per kilo.
While stressing that Robusta fetches a lower price on the world market compared to Arabica which is cultivated in Kigoma and Mbeya among other places, Malima said 80 percent of the world market supplied coffee is Arabica.
"Even the price per kilo for Arabica on the world market is 3.4 US dollars (approx. 5,360/-) per kilo while Robusta is fetching a half of this price," Malima argued as MrMwijage assailed lazy extension officers who spend much of their time in offices instead of going to the field to counsel farmers.
Mwijage said the ministry should assist more farmers adopt organic coffee cultivation in Kagera in order to earn more from the crop as was the case in 1970s. "They should go out to the field and assist farmers instead of being confined to their offices," Mwijage noted.
Minister Chiza insisted that although exporting of organic coffee by Kagera farmers is a better option for the future, such an arrangement is supposed to be certified by a London based institution, Fairtrade organisation.
Fair trade organisations started buying from KCU in 1988. Early on, it became obvious that the best way to increase farmers' share of the coffee's value was for the Union to start doing its own exporting, which is why in the first years the extra income generated through Fairtrade was used to set up and equip an export office.
Founded in the 1930s, it currently comprises some 90,000 small-scale coffee farmers organised in 124 village co-operatives. In total, there are upwards of 130,000 small-holder coffee farmers in the region. Most of those who are not members of KCU are affiliated to the Karagwe District Co-operative Union in Kagera, which is also Fair trade certified.