Mega project launched to boost plant health

THE Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the European Union (EU) has launched a three-year project to increase access to safe and quality agricultural produce for national and international markets.

The project `Strengthening plant health services in Tanzania for enhanced food safety,’ seeks to address administrative and technical limitations relevant to plant health that deteriorate agricultural trade, endanger food security and safety.

Speaking at the launch of the project in Dodoma recently, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Anthony Mavunde said that the project also would improve the quality of crops to meet the standards of international markets.

He said the project seeks to address administrative and technical constraints relevant to plant health that deteriorate agricultural trade, endanger food security and food safety.

The overall budget of the project is 10.1 million euros (about 22.8bn/-) and Mr Mavunde said the project will be implemented nationwide in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.

He said direct beneficiaries will be plant health services, local producers and traders including women and youth.

He said the initiative will establish 19 border inspection posts with diagnostic and surveillance equipment, seven cars and 19 motorcycles for surveillance uses have been procured, as well as 20 drones’ surveillance units.

Mr Mavunde said that in 2017 the ministry of agriculture conducted special research which established poor awareness of health plants among local experts and farmers, as well as the absence of laboratories for plant health diagnosis and surveillance facilities.

He said that the mentioned challenges placed the country in an uncomfortable position to export agricultural produce to potential international markets.

“With this project in place, we’re expecting to stand a better chance to start exporting crop produce to the potential international markets, and our main focus is to increase our crop export value from currently 1.2billion US dollars annually to at least 5 billion US dollars by 2030,” he said.

For his part, Cedric Merel, Head of Cooperation at EU Delegation in Tanzania said that through the project, Tanzania’s performance and efficiency of phytosanitary control at border posts will be enhanced.

“That will allow access of Tanzania products to international markets, avoiding risks of interceptions and rejections by official competent authorities in the countries of destinations,” the EU official detailed.

He further said that between 2012 and 2017, more than two consignments of agriculture products destined to the EU market have been intercepted for administrative on-compliance and evidence of undesired contaminants.

He added that represents in some cases an important economic loss for the country and a risk for the consumers.

FAO Representative in Tanzania Dr Nyabenyi Tipo said that the project aimed at opening a new successful chapter for Tanzania to start enjoying exporting key economic cash crops to various destinations in EU countries, among others.

“FAO is well committed to continuing working with the government of Tanzania to improve performance of the key agriculture sector. This project we launch today will stand at the forefront to accomplish all responsibilities that fall on our side, so as to ensure the project attained the desired outcomes upon its completion,” she said.

On his part, Tanzania Health Plant and Pesticides Authority (TPHPA) Director General (DG), Dr Ephraim Njau, said the project will expand the capacity of the state-owned authority to train the country’s plant health inspectors at border posts, improve diagnostic and surveillance facilities at its laboratories, as well as enhancing field reporting and surveillance efficiency.

He added that the project will enable the authority to stand a possible chance to adopt modern and innovative data collection and management systems and enhance food safety for export and domestic trade.

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