AGRO-dealers are a critical link in the agricultural input distribution chain and play an important role in supporting the smallholder farmer to commercialise, said BRITEN (Building Rural Incomes Through Enterprise) Managing Director Ms Josefynne Miingi-Kaiza.
Addressing the third agrodealers' convention which was organised by her organisation in collaboration with the National Agro-Dealer Association (TANADA) in Dar es Salaam, she said agro-dealers located near the farmer provide a wide range of goods and services. "Agro-dealer associations serve as an important tool in fighting counterfeit inputs reaching the farmer and it is important that the importer suppliers and the government recognize their role is not just distribution, but in the fight against counterfeits," she said.
The meeting brought together leaders of various agro-dealer associations at district level. They deliberated on ways of creating a corporate structure to streamline inputs distribution to smallholder farmers and curb incidences of counterfeit product distribution. She says that the whole distribution process has been easy through TANADA and also distributor's payments were successful.
"We want agro-dealers to increase incomes and strengthen their business skills. They should become source of skills and information for small scale farmer farmers," said Micheal Mahecha of TANADA when addressing the convention. Mr Mahecha stressed that the agricultural input distribution chain cannot function well without agro- dealers and it was the responsibility of all stakeholders, public and private sector to strengthen the network.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng. Christoper Chiza said the government focused at ensuring agricultural growth rises from current 3.6 per cent, last year to six per cent. The Minister went ahead to thank AGRA for providing financing to train 3,855 agro-dealers out of which 511 of them received loans through the overdraft facility from NMB. The minister also stated that the government was committed to strengthening the agro-dealer network and in 2012/13, more than 1,000 agro-dealers will be trained.
"The government is delighted for being able to achieving distribution of agricultural appliances in every village," he said, adding that the system would go a longway to improve livelihood in rural areas. The minister was represented by the Deputy Permanent Secretary in his ministry, Mrs Sophia Kaduma. AGRA country Manager, Mr Fred Muhhuku, told agro- dealers they have to become business savvy and it starts with knowing who your customers are.
He said agro-dealers must ensure they support small-holder farmers with training and other capacity building initiatives, so as not only to boost their business but the whole agricultural development process. The convention was partly financed by AGRA. Kick Start International Regional Manager, Mr Deus Shauri, commended the government for putting up some efforts in supporting agro-dealers but added that: "More effort should be put in training small agro-dealers. They need technical skills."
Agro-dealers' convention is an annual event bringing together stakeholders in the agriculture input distribution chain - agrodealers, fertilizer, seed and agrochemicals importers and government. This particular event was a convention and also served as the annual general meeting of the Tanzania National Agro-dealer Association. The theme for the convention was "towards commercialisation of smallholder agriculture."