MEMBERS of Parliament have asked the government to increase funding to Tanzania Rural and Urban Roads Agency (TARURA) for rural road upgrading to ease carriage of farm produce to markets.
They equally argued that it was high time the country embarked seriously on adding value to farm produce, livestock and fishery products by setting up small and medium scale processing industries, which will offer reliable markets for producers.
The legislators were contributing to the proposals on the national development plan and government expenditures and revenue framework for 2020/2021, which Finance and Planning Minister Dr Philip Mpango tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The one-year 2020/2021 development plan is the culmination of the Second National- Five-Year-Development Plan (NFYPII), which kicked off in 2016/2017.
It followed the First Five-Year-Development-Plan (NFYPI) spanning 2010/2011 and 2015/2016. Through the plans, the gov-towards a middle-income economy through the Tanzania Development Vision 2025.
Contributing to the proposals, Mr Joram Hongoli (Lupembe- CCM) said many rural areas lack proper infrastructure, impeding transportation of farm produce from farmers.
"TARURA should be availed with more funds to upgrade roads in these areas. Delays in transporting the crop lead to compromised quality and eventually lower prices for farmers," he stated.
The MP proposed alternative sources of funding for the agency to enable it to improveinfrastructure in rural areas, which are crucial for transporting people, goods, crops and fertilizers, among others.
The sentiments were shared by Special Seats MP Dr Christine Ishengoma (CCM) who expressed concerns on poor state of roads in rural areas and yet the agency received only 30 per cent of the approved budget.
Dr Ishengoma argued that agriculture is the key economic sector that employs majority Tanzanians and has great potential in reducing household poverty and boosting industrial economy.
Agriculture employs over 65 per cent of the country's popula tion and contributes 28.2 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but MPs were concerned that the sector grows at a mere annual average of 3.3 per cent.
Tanga Urban MP Musa Mbarouk (CUF) decried lack of reliable markets for farm produce, subjecting farmers to abject poverty due to low prices.
The legislator suggested that the proposed development plan for 2020/2021 clearly indicates how the government plans to put in place enabling environment for farmers to sell theirproduce at good prices.
"If these plans are anything to rely on, then they should consider the poor farmers who despite toiling on the farms, they receive little pay for their produce," he charged.
Special Seats MP Felista Bura (CCM) complained that Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB), which is meant to provide loans to the sector, is mainly based in Dar es Salaam with few branches in some parts of the country and yet majority of farmers operate from upcountry regions.
"As a matter of fact, many people in the villages are not even aware of loans issued by the bank... and the few who are aware find it hard foot the costs to access it in Dar es Salaam or other few areas where it has branches," she complained.
Mr Cosato Chumi (Mafinga Urban-CCM) proposed establishment of small and medium scale sugar processing plants to cater for both domestic and international demand.
"The envisaged Mkulazi sugar project is large-scale undertaking but it would take little capital and less mobilisation to establish smaller plants. The sugar industry is a multibillion undertaking from which Tanzania could benefit," he advised.
During the deliberations, Geita Rural MP Joseph Kasheku (CCM) proposed the meeting with investors who acquired factories and failed to develop them.
"You should meet these industrialists to find out why they failed. Some of them have been complaining that they had been subjected to unfair competition from cheap imports," he argued.
The outspoken MP lashed out at some local government authorities, which have been making proposals to be availed with funds to set up modern shopping markets and bus stands and yet the common people are in need of crucial social services.
"Our people in rural areas want water, health services, schools and roads not modern shopping malls and bus stands with storeyed structures," he pointed.
The lawmaker advised the government to reject all proposals of that nature and instead channel the funds to development projects in rural areas.