Dar es Salaam — The government on Wednesday said 192,095.8 tonnes of raw cashew nuts (RCNs) worth Sh507.707 billion had been sold by December 31, 2019.
Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga told The Citizen in an exclusive interview that the amount was part of the 196,389.6 tonnes of the crop which had been collected by the end of last year.
The minister was evaluating the country's cashew nuts trading for the 2019/2020 harvesting season, noting that the set target of collecting some 290,000 tonnes of the crop wouldn't be reached. This is partly due to abrupt weather changes that had damaged the crop in some cashew-growing areas.
"The government will evaluate the situation to ascertain whether or not all the harvested cashew nuts have been collected and sent to Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (Amcos). It is this assessment that will inform us whether to close or extend the season," he said.
He stressed that the government would take stern measures against any cooperative unions that are shown to have been negligent or otherwise remiss in delaying payment to cashew farmers in some regions.
"The number of traders who are usually involved in illegal cashew dealings has significantly dropped this season - probably due to increased education and government warnings," he said.
"Farmers' registration will enable us to identify true cashew farmers and their production capacities. This will completely eliminate unscrupulous traders commonly known as 'Kangomba.'"
He said the government has registered 279,659 cashew farmers across the country - equivalent to 87 per cent of the 318,407 targeted.
Regarding establishing more cashew industries, Mr Hasunga said President John Magufuli's industrialization drive is attracting investors to set up cashew-processing firms in the country.
"There are 18 operating companies with a combinedannual processing capacity of 50,000 tonnes - and employ 6,700 Tanzanians. Twelve other companies are at various stages of construction," he said.
According to provisional statistics by the Customs and Excise Department of the Tanzania Revenue Authority, about 204,500 tonnes of cashew nuts were exported during August, September and October 2019, out of the 225,000 tonnes which had been collected.
Speaking of future plans, the minister said improving cashew nuts production by replacing old cashew trees with new varies will be done to boost yields. Another way is to increase cashew growing areas. Also, supplying agricultural inputs preferred by farmers would be prioritized.
According to him, during the next cashew farming season, the government will put in place special procedures for the supply of packaging materials - noting that this was a major challenge this latest harvesting season.
However, a recent report by the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) posted on its website states that cashewnut farmers earned Sh484.756 billion from 181,273.23 tonnes of RCNs durinf the period from October 31, 2019 to December 22, 2019.
According to the report, farmers from the Masasi and Mtwara Cooperative Union (Mamcu) pocketed Sh187.689 billion from 69,598.09 tonnes of the crop, while those from the Tandahimba and Newala Cooperative Union (Tanecu) earned Sh137.873 billion from 52,127.75 tonnes.
Also, farmers from the Ruangwa, Nachingwea and Liwale Cooperative Union (Runali) received Sh64.404 billion from 23,377.98 tonnes sold, while their counterparts from the Tunduru Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Union (Tamcu) earned Sh47.175 billion from 17, 739.08 tonnes.
The report also says that the Lindi Mwambao farmers walked away with Sh44.695 billion from 17,039.879 tonnes, while members of the Coast Region Cooperative Union (Corecu) garnered Sh2.921 billion from 1,390.46 tonnes of the cashew nuts they sold through official channels.
Furthermore, the report reveals that Sh2,890 was the maximum purchasing price per kilogramme of the produce recorded by Tanecu on November 15, 2019. On the other hand, Sh2,047 per kilo was the minimum price registered by Runali at their auction held on December 04, 2019.
The CBT schedules show that this season will officially be closed on January 17, 2020 after the Mamcu auction slated for Mtwara DC, and to held by the Mahurunga Amcos.
Speaking on the ending cashew season, the Tamcu general manager, Mr Imani Kalembo, said a total of 21,794.46 tonnes worth Sh57.627 billion was sold by the union.
"The good news is that payment delays have been reduced, thus making farmers happy this time, compared to the last trading season," he said.
However, he said the union was running short of 55,000 packaging materials, noting that the supplier, Dirma Holdings Company, promised to deliver the materials by end of this week.
The Mamcu general manager, Mr Protence Rwiza, said payments have been made to farmers from the seventh auction in the series - and that payments for the eighth auction have been delayed to the end of the festiv e season.
"At least, farmers are happy this year because the early payments enabled them to resolve their social and economic problems - as well as make early preparations for the next farming season," he said.