LACK of access to market information and ineffective functioning of cooperative unions have been cited as among challenges facing coffee farmers in the country.
Other challenges include delayed payments and early closure of coffee marketing season and poor harvest handling.
This was revealed in a report titled “ Investigative research on coffee smuggling in Kagera Region”, which was conducted by the Agricultural Non State Actors F orum (ANSAF), in collaboration with a team of experts from the Kagera Regional Commissioner’s office.
According to the report, most of the farmers were ignorant on the cooperative system and the farmers have no powers to influence coffee prices.
More education was needed to educate the farmers on cooperative management system. Many deductions are made by cooperative unions to cover overhead costs.
The Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU) charges 618/- from each kilogramme as head costs while the Karagwe District Cooperative Union (KDCU), charges 813/- per kilogramme while Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) charges 1/- on total sales as head costs.
Cooperative Unions pay about 1126/- for kilogramme of coffee.
Due to its proximity to a neighbouring country, a big chunk of coffee was being smuggled through “panya routes”, the report says…. adding… while 25 per cent of the coffee is sold through formal system (cooperative unions) in Kyerwa district, about 66 per cent of the crop was sold through informal sector.
In Missenyi district about 10 per cent of the coffee was sold through formal sector while 89 per cent of the coffee was sold through informal sector.
Multi-sectoral approach efforts were recommended…. the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry for Trade, Industries and Investments, TCB and District Councils should strengthen the Marketing Intelligence Unit (MIU).
Joint efforts should be directed on extension services and to revive defunct F armers’ Extension Centres (F ECs) where farmers could get the much needed on farm technologies.
Financial institutions, on the other hand, should have closer linkage to farmers to enable them to get loans to buy fertilizers and other farm inputs on time.
Agriculture Deputy Minister, Mr Omary Mgumba disclosed that the government will soon conduct a thorough scrutiny on Cooperative Unions and Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) leaders in the country in bid to rid the institutions of unqualified and noncommitted leaders.
Mr Mgumba disclosed this information when he paid a courtesy call and held discussions with Kagera Regional Commissioner (RC), Brig Gen Marco Gaguti.
“We are in the process to conduct a national exercise on Cooperative Unions and AMCOS to know the exact qualifications of the leaders. The exercise will rid the institutions of unqualified and non-committed leaders. Almost in every corner the farmers were complaining of rampant thefts in Cooperative Unions and AMCOS and the complaints covered all crops including coffee, cotton, tea, sugar and cashew nut,” he said.
The Deputy Minister emphasized on the need to separate cooperative management to business management.
“Some of the unfaithful cooperative leaders have been mixing the two issues for personal gains. This is quite wrong. Cooperatives should be conducted transparently and should not be part of business issues because the institutions should benefit the farmers,” he said.
He explained that Kagera Region was in the past a shining example in running cooperatives but wondered what had happened…a dding… w e want to revive the lost glory.
He refuted reports that private companies had been barred from buying coffee in Kagera Region.
“These rumours are unfounded. Private companies are allowed to participate in coffee auction, but they should follow the laid down regulations,” he said.
Concerted efforts are needed to assist Tanzania smallholder farmers to shift from subsistence agriculture to agri-business through modernization 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.