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Kagera coffee farmers want access to international markets

AGRICULTURAL and Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) in Kagera Region should be allowed to sell their coffee directly to international markets.

Under the current system, the coffee produced domestically must be sold through cooperatives.

The chair of the Kyerwa District Council Kashunju Runyogote made an appeal during discussion on a report findings by a team of experts comprising officials from the Regional Commissioner’s office and the Agricultural Non State Actors’ Forum (ANSAF).

We appeal for government intervention to make necessary amendments and allow Agricultural and Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) in Kagera Region to sell their coffee direct at international markets instead of the present system where they are forced to hand the crop to Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU) and Karagwe District Cooperative Union (KDCU), because the Unions are basically a burden to the farmers, he argued.

Mr Christopher Kiiza, a coffee farmer from Missenyi district, on the other hand noted that there was a lot of bureaucracies among cooperative unions adding; many of the assets including hotels and real estates did not benefit the farmers that there was need for improved control of coffee marketing system to enable the farmers enjoy their sweat.

Coffee farmers in the country including those in Kagera Region will benefit through direct export system by getting attractive price for their crop. Cooperative Unions will also avoid paying high interest rates charged by financial institutions.

KCU comprised of 133 Agricultural and Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS). Out of the number, 53 are in Muleba, 51 in Bukoba Rural, 26 in Missenyi while three others are in Bukoba Urban. KDCU, on the other hand, comprised of 126 AMCOS.

Kagera Regional Cooperative Development Officer, Mr Robert Kitambo appealed to Cooperative Officers in Muleba, Missenyi, Bukoba, Karagwe, Kyerwa and Ngara districts to educate the farmers on the importance of the WRS whereby farmers will get payment through their bank accounts, also emphasizing the need for collective responsibility and faithfulness.

Coffee farmers in Kagera Region will benefit from services provided under the Warehouse Receipts System (WRS).

Under Section 22(1) of the Warehouse Receipts Act, 2005 each applicant for a licence to operate a Warehouse should have a Certificate of Insurance-insuring all commodities which are or maybe in such Warehouse for their full market value for loss by fire, theft, burglary, arson or any other cause.

The Warehouse Operator shall make complete settlement to all depositors having commodities stored in any Warehouse, damaged or destroyed within ten days after settlement with the Insurance Company. The WRS currently is operating in various regions including Mtwara, Lindi, Ruvuma, Coast region, Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Morogoro, Dodoma, Mbeya, Ruvuma, and Mwanza.

The crops under WRS include Cashewnut, Cotton, Coffee, Maize, Paddy/Rice, Sesame, Sunflower and Pigeon peas. The move to boost agricultural sector was in line with government’s pledges to farmers.

This is one of the moves aimed at making farmers greatly benefit from agricultural activities and address challenges that have been facing them for many years to enable them to move from traditional farming to modern methods and relegating the hand hoe into museums.

Concerted efforts are needed to assist Tanzania smallholder farmers to shift from subsistence agriculture to agri-business through modernisation of technology and the efforts should aim to encourage youths to adopt positive agriculture.

A holistic approach is needed to address numerous challenges in the agriculture sector while sustainable management strategies should address climate change, which is a major challenge to agriculture and food security. More education was needed to inform farmers on climate change and its effects.

Various interventions are being implemented by the Agricultural Non State Actors’ Forum (ANSAF) in transformation of the agricultural sector to assist smallholder farmers to higher productivity and profitability and improve their livelihoods, food security and nutrition.

Agricultural performance is critically important to propoor growth since it employs over 75 per cent of the population, where the majority of them live in rural settings. With Africa’s population expected to double by 2050, the continent must ditch the hoe in favour of modern technology.

A transformation from small-scale subsistence farms to mechanized, more commercially viable farms is essential.

Currently, mechanisation levels on farms across Africa are very low, with the number of tractors in sub-Saharan Africa ranging from 1.3 per square kilometre in Rwanda to 43 per square kilometre in South Africa, compared with 128 per square kilometre in India and 116 per square kilometre in Brazil.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a UN specialized agency that champions efforts to defeat hunger, Africa overall has less than two tractors per 1000 hectares of cropland. This number is 10 tractors per 1000 hectares in South Asia and Latin America. Without mechanized agriculture, productivity suffers drastically, lowering farmers earnings.

Africa currently spends a whooping 35 billion US dollars annually on food imports, according to the African Development Bank (AFDB) which projects that if the current trend continues, food imports could rise to 110 billion US dollars by 2050. Successful mechanisation will be key to tackling major challenges on the continent.

Mechanisation is not only for tilling land, it is also for planting, harvesting, processing and storage of produce. Increased levels of mechanisation will boost social and economic processes in both on farm and off farms levels in rural communities through reducing drudgery of farm work and improving yields.

Africa must start by treating agriculture as a business. It must learn fast from experiences elsewhere, for example in South East Asia, where agriculture has been the foundation for fast-paced economic growth, built on a strong food processing and agro-industrial manufacturing base.

However, the performance of the sector has historically been low. Cereal yields are significantly below the global average. Modern farm inputs, including improved seeds, mechanization and irrigation, are severely limited. In the past, agriculture was seen as the domain of the humanitarian development sector, as a way to manage poverty.

It was not seen as a business sector for wealth creation. Yet Africa has huge potential in agriculture – and with it huge investment potential. Some 65 per cent of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world lies in Africa. When Africa manages to feed itself, as – within a generation – it will also be able to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the planet in 2050.

However, Africa is wasting vast amounts of money and resources by underrating its agriculture sector. For example, it spends $35 billion in foreign currency annually importing food, a figure that is set to rise to over $100 billion per year by 2030. In so doing, Africa is choking its own economic future.

It is importing the food that it should be growing itself. It is exporting, often to developed countries, the jobs it needs to keep and nurture. It also has to pay inflated prices resulting from global commodity supply fluctuations.

The food and agribusiness sector is projected to grow from $330 billion today to $1 trillion by 2030, and remember that there will also be 2 billion people looking for food and clothing. African enterprises and investors need to convert this opportunity and unlock this potential for Africa and Africans.

Africa must not miss opportunities for such linkages whenever and wherever they occur. We must reduce food system losses all along the food chain, from the farm, storage, transport, processing and retail marketing.

The value of Africa’s food market is expected to more than triple in value by 2030 to 1.0 trillion US dollars annually , thus enhanced regional trade would be vital in unlocking opportunities for African food producers and processors in the future.

The first step towards the transformation of the sector is by modernizing agriculture at the farm level. This should be followed by connecting agriculture to other sectors of the economy.

The input sector needs to be closely linked with others down streams like processing, logistics, marketing, rebranding and retailing. The efficient agricultural production means lower cost of food which, in some households, can be as high as 70 per cent of the budget.

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