3 January 2019

Tanzania: Farmers, Traders Glad to See Off 2018

Arusha — Onion growers at Mang'ola in the semi-arid Lake Eyasi basin had their good moments until a few years ago.

They were earning about Sh150,000 to Sh200,000 for a bag stuffed with the produce and sold mainly to buyers from Kenya.

This is not the case presently, at least from last year. Now they are able to earn a paltry Sh50,000 per bag and, if they are lucky, up to Sh80,000.

"Local politics is to blame. Farmers have been chased from the water source and can no longer irrigate their farms," lamented Robert Gapjojig, one of the traders.

He said it was one of the challenges the onion producers and buyers in Arusha had to cope with as they ushered in 2019.

The situation is no better for maize producers. The producer price has dropped to between Sh30,000 to Sh40,000 a bag.

"There is no good business this year," he told The Citizen on Wednesday by phone from the remote area in Karatu District.

Mr Gapjojig has been doing roaring business there by selling farm inputs for years but now admits the difficulties he has had to endure. His remarks reflect the general picture of challenges the business community and traders in and around Arusha are likely to face this year.

His worries are echoed by Mohamed Elmi, a Hanang-based entrepreneur who deals with making of farm implements.

"The situation is difficult because of taxation," he said, noting that the prices of raw steel and iron parts were increasingly beyond his reach.

Reuben Shija, an estate agent based in Arusha City, complains the going is equally tough for him and his colleagues in the trade.

"We now have fewer clients compared to past years. There are few and fewer people looking for rooms for rent at Sh300,000 and above," he said.

He added: "At most you come across somebody needing a Sh100,000 room or less. Some clients seeking office spaces have either left the country or relocated their businesses elsewhere."

Nevertheless, Mr Shija admits the situation with the real estate business in Arusha, the country's safari capital, remains tricky.

"The outlets for establishing shops are increasingly becoming expensive yet its owners have not reduced rent. They are empty now and plenty," he noted.

But Jaffar Wallii, an official from Coastal Aviation Limited, operating mainly charter flights exuded confidence for 2019.

"We have enough travelers. The business is good and we are not complaining," he told The Citizen on Wednesday, adding that due to the influx of foreign tourists the air charter business was stable because it has not been impacted by turbulence that has hit other segments of the economy.

"We are careful in handling our passengers and we have been getting good cooperation from the regulatory authorities," he pointed out.

They include the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) and the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA), among others. But Walter Maeda, the chairperson of the Arusha regional chapter of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry (TCCIA), looked a bit worried.

He is deeply concerned that scores of his members were yet to get their National IDs despite having completed all formalities months ago.

"They should speed up the process of issuing the IDs," he said when reached by this newspaper yesterday, noting that the delay has not been fully explained.

Failure by members of the business community to get National IDs has, among other things, made it difficult for them to register their businesses.

"It is the biggest challenge facing the business community in Arusha," he said, pleading to the concerned authorities to work on the anomaly.

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