DISCUSSIONS are underway between the government of Tanzania and British American Tobacco Limited to purchase more than eight million kilogramme of tobacco during the 2019/2020 farming season, the National Assembly was told.
The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe, told parliamentarians on Friday that the government had met with various potential buyers and stakeholders in September this year to discuss issues affecting the cash crop.
During the coming farming season, Tanzania is projected to produce 42.225 tonnes of tobacco based on estimates conducted in July, this year, by leading buyers of tobacco in Tanzania, namely Alliance One Tobacco Tanzania Limited.
Japan International Tobacco and Premium Active Tanzania Limited.
He said production estimates helps farmers, cooperative unions and the government to make early preparations such as distribution of seeds and other agricultural inputs.
The country’s demand for tobacco fertilizers is 14,951 tonnes. Of the number, 3,139 tonnes are planting fertilizer and another 27 percent for growing.
“We have procured enough fertilizer which is now distributed to tobacco growers across the country. The exercise is supervised by farmers’ cooperative unions. Until October 2019, we have distributed 1,774 tonnes (82.13 percent) of fertilizer in Urambo district against the demand of 2,160 tonnes."
Mr Bashe explained that as part of initiatives to boost tobacco production as well as strengthening market systems, the government is consulting various stakeholders to secure markets in member countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
“We want our tobacco to be sold in COMESA countries. Currently, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan purchases Tanzanian tobacco produced in Moshi, Kilimanjaro region”, said the Deputy Minister.
He added the government sponsored five tobacco experts in China undergoing trainings on how best farmers in Tanzania can cultivate the crop.
He said the aim is to ensure production of quality tobacco that matches China’s market standards.
Following the trainings, he said, five new tobacco varieties were imported from China and are being tested at various parts across the country whereas ten acres have been planted under the supervision of Tobacco Research Institute of Tanzania (TORITA) and Tanzania Tobacco Board (TTB).
He was responding to a question by Urambo MP, Ms Margareth Sitta, who wanted to know measures the government was taking to find solutions to the many challenges facing tobacco farmers in the country.
Ms Sitta said tobacco farmers especially those in Urambo district face a number of challenges including destructive pests, lack of reliable markets and delayed distribution of inputs.
According to the Tanzania Tobacco Board, production of the cash crop had been on the decline since the 2013/2014 farming season.
Production of tobacco declined from 105 million kilograms in 2013/2014 to 93 million kilograms in 2014/2015.