Tanzania: Fate of Problematic Cashew Nuts Auctions to be Known Later

Cashew nut farmers will know their fate over the marketing crisis, following the end of a four-day ultimatum given by the government to prospective buyers to buy the crop.

The fate of cashew nuts trading in the 2018/19 harvest season will be known after 4pm today when the government is expected to issue a statement.

The statement is expected to either name the firms that will participate in the business, or announce commencement of a government operation to purchase the product.

On Friday, Prime Minister KassimMajaliwa directed 35 companies registered to buy cashew nuts this season to submit letters to his Office expressing intent to purchase the crop, as well as quantity and timeframe for the purchase.

However, on Saturday, President John Magufuli reiterated the government’s commitment to purchase the entire crop if the firms miss on the government’s Monday deadline.

He made the statement when addressing senior Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) officers at the 95KJ Camp in Dar es Salaam – also known as the General Twalipo Camp.

DrMagufuli made the statement after inspecting 75 TPDF vehicles with a total carrying capacity of1,500 tonnes. The trucks are lined up ready to ferry the cashed crop to export points should the government end up having to buy the produce.

Noting that there are warehouses in Mtwara and Dar es Salaam Regions with a storage capacity of 77,000 tonnes and 90,000 tonnes respectively, the president said it should be no problem for the government to store the 210,000 tonnesof cashew nuts that may have to be purchased by the government.

Insisting that the government has enough money with which to purchase the ‘stranded’ crop, the president said it will also have no trouble finding export markets. It will also process some of the cashew nuts locally for export and domestic consumption as well.

Later during the day, DrMagufuli sacked Agriculture minister Charles Tizeba and his Trade counterpart, Charles Mwijage, in a cabinet reshuffle that was just as soon announced by State Louse.

The Head of State also disbanded the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT), and revoked the appointment of its chairperson, Ms Anna Abdallah.

In the event, the president appointed MrJaphetNgailongaHasunga – who is the MP for Mbozi (CCM) – to hold the Agriculture docket, and Joseph George Kakunda (MP for Sikonge-CCM) as the new Industries and Trade minister.

In the mini-reshuffle,DrMagufuli also appointed four deputy ministers.

Yesterday, efforts by this paper to reach senior officers in the Prime Minister’s Office to get their response regarding the premier’s directives proved futile.

Prospective cashew nuts buyers – including representatives of the Tanzania Mercantile Exchange PLC, Alfa Krust $ Alfa Choice, OM Agro and Mkemi Cashews – would not comment on the matter.

“We are in a meeting to discuss the issue,” said a representative of one of the companies, on condition of anonymity.

“I can’t disclose secrets of my business to my competitors,” said MrSalumMkemi, the owner of Mkemi Cashews, a facility that has a processing capacity of 5,000 tonnes a year.

Cashew farmers hadrefused to sell their produce in earlier auctions on account of low prices that were being offered by buyers. In that regard, the government intervened, and setting a minimum price of Sh3,000 a kilo.

However, only a little of the produce was purchased out of the 78,000 tonnes on auction in the second phase.

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