11 July 2013

Tanzania: Sisal Production Raises Hope for Bright Future, New Products

Muheza — THE privatization of industries in the late 1990s might have not been wholeheartedly welcome by a section of society. To some, it meant a decline of production, loss and perhaps total death of those units that were privatized.

It was not therefore strange that some people did not take lightly the privatization of the Muheza-based Tanzania Cordage Industries (TANCORD). Sisal production had tumbled but the Managing Director of Katani Limited that had bought some of the assets of the former Tanzania Sisal Authority (TSA) including TANCORD, Mr Salum Shamte believes that it is only a matter of time before things return to normal. Experience is a good teacher.

TANCORD, whose production of sisal twines, ropes and woven products has increased since its privatization in 1998, and is set for a sharp rise. In a bid to reach its target, the company has drawn a marketing strategy that ensures it continues produce and utilize up to 85 per cent of its installed capacity, from 20 per cent and to foster change to make it a truly commercial organization.

The General Manager Mr Noah Komba said in an interview that the strategy is being developed in response to increasing production from estates owned by Katani Limited. He noted that a successful smallholder and out grower sisal farming scheme is successfully in place. Production is currently set at 5,000 tonnes or roughly 20 per cent of the factory's installed capacity of 20,000 tonnes.

According to its development plan, production of woven products, yarns and ropes at the spinning and weaving mills will be 17,412 tonnes by the year 2022, with the capacity utilization reaching 85 per cent. The strategy is a fourpronged strategy which includes working to Change attitudes towards work (work and business ethics; making marketing as the driving force for the company as business entity; increased remuneration based on performance and better welfare to employees; and training as a major part of the reform exercise.

Mr Komba says that training is being given its due importance because the company believes that it is critically important top enable it to reach its stated objectives of maximizing resource utilization, mobilizing resources for re-investment and change, maximizing profit and reforming the company for economic and commercial sustainability.

"The company attachés special importance to Education and Training for workers and that is why last year it organized a special training for its workforce in bid to keep them abreast with modern technology and also help to induce a change of attitude towards work by inculcating work and business ethics. A total of 189 workers (Including workers from the Katani Headquarters attended and completed training facilitated by a Belgian Consultant Company SKF with its East African office based in Nairobi and the Vocational education Training Authority (VETA) under its Skills Enhancement Programme (SEP).

The company is also sponsoring a worker who is taking a Masters degree in Administration and Human Resources Management at Mzumbe University while other workers have been sponsored at VETA Chang'ombe. To underscore the crucial importance of training, a Senior Planning Officer with the Tanzania Sisal Board, Hassan Kibarua said the Board was currently in the process of developing training curricular for workers in the sisal industry in a bid to enable them to cope with the technological changes in the world.

"One of major challenges facing the sisal industry was training for its workforce to cope with the advances in technology," he said adding that, technology being used in the sisal industry was old and a lot of changes were being in made in production of the sisal fibre and other by products that call for refresher training for the workforce.

Mr Kibarua said that the board believes that the only way workers could cope with technological changes would be through training. Preparations for the training curricular which are being developed by the Board in cooperation with the Mlingano Agricultural Research Institute (ARI MLingano) which has been dealing with research in sisal for years and MATI were now at an advanced stage.

"The draft of the training curricular would be circulated among stakeholders before being brought back to ARI Mlingano for preparation of the final draft. TANCORD (1998) Limited was acquired from the Parastatal Sector Reform Commission, following the dissolution of the Tanzania Sisal Company and incorporated as a limited liability company in 1998 with its main objective being to develop, manufacture and market yarns and various sizes of ropes and woven products.

Komba said that the company's mill at Ngomeni, in Muheza District is producing at around 20 per cent of its installed capacity and the plan is to raise this level of production to about 85 per cent of the current installed capacity by 2022. The Ngomeni Mills fibre supplies come from Katani Limited which supplies 60 per cent while the rest comes from external suppliers, in the estates where Katani has developed smallholder sisal production.

The sisal industry trends, according to Katani Limited Managing Director Salum Shamte show that prices of sisal have soared in the past decade. "In the last ten years, the price of the common grade (UG) rose 89 per cent from US $ 636 in the year 2000 to US$ 1,200 in 2011," Mr Shamte , who is also Chairman of the Agricultural Chamber of Tanzania (ACT) said.

However, he said that although Tanzania has over 100 years of experience in the sisal industry, most producers still export more fibre than fibre products. "Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB) figures show that out of 34,500 tonnes of sisal fibre produced in 2011 only about 15 per cent were sisal fibre products," Mr Shamte said, adding that TANCORD would diversify to expand its product base by manufacturing new products, explore new markets and improve the quality of its products.

The diversification programme includes fine yearns, woven products, handicrafts, table and door mats, handbags which are also produced by contractors. "The consumption of sisal fibre woven products (mainly carpets and matting) has remained constant, use of the fibre in buffing cloth is an opportunity for which there is a demand in industrializing countries such as Chine," Shamte said.

He said another application of sisal fibre is composite applications in the automotive and construction. "In these fields, a huge demand is likely to develop, sisal fibre is superior to other natural fibres in its use in paper making due to its higher elastic modulus, impact strength and moderate tensile flexion strengths, "he said.

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