Dar es Salaam — MPs and representatives of cashew nut growers yesterday faulted the government's proposal to amend the Cashew nut Industry Act , 2009, as suggested in the Finance Bill, 2018.
They said the Bill - which was published in the Official Gazette on June 12, 2018, and which will be tabled for debate at the end of the Parliament's Budget sitting - would negatively impact growth and prosperity of the crop.
In the event, they observed that their demand for Sh211 billion which the government owes cashew nut farmers will continue, as revealed in Parliament by the chairperson of the Budget Committee, Ms Hawa Ghasia.
The proposed changes, if passed, would mean that all export levy collections will be deposited in the Consolidated Fund. This is instead of the current situation where 65 per cent is channelled to the fund of the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT), while the government gets the remaining 35 per cent.
In the Finance Bill, 2018, the government proposes to amend Section 17A of the Principal Act by deleting the extant Subsection 2 and substituting it with a new subsection 2, and deleting Subsection 3.
The proposed new Subsection 2 would then read as follows: "The total amount of export levy collected under Subsection 1 shall be deposited in the Consolidated Fund."
Debating the proposals, Mr Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban-ACT Wazalendo) said the proposed changes would transfer all export levy collections to the main Treasury fund, to be directed to other outlays , thereby not benefitting cashew growers.
"For two consecutive years, the government did not release a share of the export levy to CBT with which to support farmers with agricultural inputs," he said, adding, "This is unacceptable."
Mr Kabwe's remarks were echoed by Mr Katani Katani (Tandahimba-CCM), who noted that MPs from 17 cashew nut-growing regions were collaborating in opposing the proposed changes.
"We want all the MPs to oppose the Bill," he told The Citizen in a telephone interview, noting that the crop is now grown in almost every region of the country.
The MP also accused the government of failing to provide farmers with agricultural inputs, and vowed to continue pressing for release of the withheld Sh211 billion.
Mr Nape Nnauye (Mtama-CCM) vowed to oppose the proposed amendment, saying supporting it would amount to sabotaging cashew farmers.
"I will oppose the changes to my last drop of blood, and also ensure that the Sh211 billion owed to cashew farmers is refunded in full," he pledged.
Tandahimba District Council chairman Seleman Namkulya said if the proposed changes were approved, it would cause an outcry among farmers.
"This is because value-addition efforts, improved agricultural extension services and the distribution of subsidized inputs are already a nightmare," he said.
In that regard, he called upon lawmakers, regardless of their political affiliations, to oppose the proposed changes for the good of the cashew crop which earned Tanzania more foreign currency compared to other crops in the 2017/18 fiscal year.
According to Mr Namkulya, MPs should also earnestly press for disbursement of the Sh211 billion, arguing that doing so would enable cashew nut farmers to implement various development projects in the 2017/18 financial year.