Dodoma — The debate on cashew nuts took centre stage in Parliament yesterday, with lawmakers saying the government's move to buy the crop was riddled with shortfalls.
But - conceding that there indeed have been some challenges - the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Japhet Hasunga, nonetheless said that the government would complete paying all cashew nut farmers within the next two weeks.
"It is only about Sh100 billion that has not been paid to the farmers, and we will pay that within two weeks," he said and admitted that the matter was giving him sleepless nights.
He revealed that the government bought cashew nuts worth a total of Sh722.7 billion from farmers, and that some Sh623.6 billion had already been paid to them.
Mr Hasunga was responding to MPs contributions when winding up the debate on his ministry's budget of Sh253.83 billion for the 2019/20 financial year.
Contributing to the debate, Mr Nape Nnauye (Mtama-CCM) said the cashew nut buying process was riddled with shortfalls, including corruption and falsifications.
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"President John Magufuli intended well when he directed that the government should purchase the crop. But those who executed the President's directive did not do justice," Mr Nnauye said, adding that, although the farms of 1,281 farmers from 11 primary cooperative societies in his Mtama Constituency had been verified, they are yet to be paid for their produce.
"Their cashew nuts have been collected. But, they do not have money to prepare their farms for the next season," he said.
In the event, the MP called upon the Controller and Auditor General to appraise this new cashew nut buying process.
"As I said earlier, the President had good intentions; but those who implemented the directive provided him with false information regarding the implementation. The perpetrators are known, and if they do not take responsibility on their own volition, we will name them all, as what they did amounts to sabotaging the cashew subsector and the economy at large," Mr Nnauye said.
For his part, Mr Joseph Selasini (Rombo-Chadema), shared similar sentiments, but went further by asking the Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai, to form a special task force of MPs to check on the state of the cashew nuts in warehouses. Noting that he was among the people who were involved in transporting cashew nuts to warehouses, Mr Selasini said that at least 30 per cent of the nuts must be rotten by now.
"If you think I am telling lies, you should task a team of 40 MPs to check the condition of the cashew nuts in warehouses," he challenged.
But Mr Hasunga sought to clear the air by categorically stating that all the cashew nuts were still in good condition.
Reported by Sharon Sauwa and Habel Chidawali