Tanzania: Plans Underway to Revive Sisal Production

AS the government embarks on reviving the cultivation of sisal, only four percent of the cash crop has been utilised, according to Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB).

TSB Planning and Research Officer, Mr Frederick Sospeter made the remarks yesterday during the virtual Business to Business meeting at the on-going 44th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF).

Mr Sospeter said lack of modern technologies to make more products was the reason behind 96 percent of the crop not being utilised.

"At the moment we are making very few products, but the crop can be used in areas such as automobile, autocraft, agriculture and medicine industry. The interior parts of cars, aeroplanes and ships are made by sisal fibre, the sisal residues are used for animal feed and fertilizer, just to mention a few," he explained.

The TSB Official asserted that the board has continued to persuade several investors to consider venturing into technology that will add value to the 'green gold' tag.

According to him, another strategy is the acquisition of state-of-the-art machinery for processing sisal into various products such as carpets and decorations.

He said TSB also plans to revive sisal production from the current 36,000 tons of the crop annually to 120,000 tons annually by 2025.

Mr Sospeter further revealed that TSB also is in the process of acquiring 20,000 hectares of sisal farms that had been abandoned by investors for quite a long time, and that the land will be distributed to smallholder farmers.

He said they are planning to use Brazil's model in growing sisal, adding that in Brazil, the world's leading sisal producer, the majority of sisal growers are smallholder farmers.

"We need to increase the number of smallholder farmers from the current 7,551 who produce about 8,600 tons of sisal annually to at least 150,000 farmers," said Sospeter.

Tanzania Mercantile Exchange (TMX) is also set to start trading sisal for smallholder farmers by December this year, as part of encouraging farmers to invest more in the crop.

TMX Director for Operations, Mr Augustino Mbulumi said they were in talks with TSB and Agricultural Marketing Co-operative Societies (AMCOS) for them to start using the system. TMX is the first commodity exchange in Tanzania. The exchange is established as a platform where farmers, traders, exporters and other various market actors are able to access the domestic and global market and obtain a fair price in selling or buying of commodities.

During its peak production in Tanzania in the 1960s, sisal earned the country handsome foreign exchange, but production of the cash crop deteriorated to low levels due to poor management.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the revival of sisal production was part of the government's plan to revive production of all strategic crops, including cashew nuts, tea, tobacco, cotton, coffee and palm oil. Tanzania's leading sisal growing regions are Tanga, Morogoro, Kilimanjaro, Coast, Lindi and Mtwara.

Sisal plant is used to produce a sisal line fibre. Historically, this fibre has been used to produce threads and ropes for ships. Domestically, the fibres are used to make various handicraft products such as carpets, bags, sacks and low-density cords.

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