S INCE time immemorial, the greater attention has been starting and ending largely on farmers, every time agriculture sector was brought on debate.
The takeaways are always general, speaking about surging or declining production of their crops and losing or gaining market share. Simple! They are hitting an important target because farmers are the very kernel of the matter, they wield an immense power in determining the fate of the entire sector.
They can under or over produce and the entire populace gets cold. In the early 1950s, China’s new government led by Chairman Mao was at the helm already. Mao’s administration came with a communist agenda which was to change an entire China forever.
Under this new ideology farmers were required to farm in a collective or communal mode. The new directive seems not to amuse them, so they revolted soon after its inception. Given Mao’s recklessness on public disobedience, one could be right to assume that the response was to be repulsive and violent. It wasn’t.
Instead, contrary to his character, he became too cooperative and humble. He travelled to their place and announced to end the new rule and gave them freedom to produce as they wished.
Mao wasn’t stupid, he was very clinical because they were the very bedrock of the country’s livelihood let alone different government programmes that depended on income from selling the crops. That’s the power producers can wield in agricultural sector.
However, over the past few decades things have changed so dramatically, so fast.Farmers are not the sole shot callers, thanks to advanced marketing structure and globalized consumerism. In the current era, a farmer is told what and how to produce, if is serious with the practice, he/she has to adhere to the market demand.
See this, Dar es Salaam market is one such a very complicated market in Tanzania – of course this becomes true when compared to other regions. A consumer in Dar eats a lot of dry beans, but guess what? He does not take every beans, he wants beans which are palatable and of uniform size and colour.
This commands a farmer to make sure that proper procedures are followed from production. An aggregator, the same. He has to take heed not to mix up the grains if at all an intention is to sell to a Dar eater.
For a transporter to get another tender next week, he needs to make sure that the track is clean and is properly driven, so that beans will not reach a destination broken or contaminated with petroleum oil. And then there is this small but burgeoning subsector,Supermarkets.
Although they mostly serve middle and higher income earners, it is critical to note that these earners consumes a lot of food per capita compared to low income earners. For a supplier to get an access to these retail stores in Dar, Arusha, Mwanza and Mbeya; has to adhere to a number of standards required by them.
The quantity of the product supplied must be consistent, super clean and safe. Standards for supermarkets in Europe or any advanced economies are even more complicated.
Some of them will even want to know if the farmers produced that particular product are not under age, so a supplier has a burden of proof to show that producers’ age is the one accepted by International Labour Organisation (ILO). In 2016, Tanzania was in a quicksand of losing Indian market for pulses.
This came after the government banned usage of Methyl Bromide (MB) as a fumigant on pulses and instead directed application of other fumigants apart from it.It was executed in a spirit of environmental conservation after the global community discovered that it has effects on the stratospheric ozone layer.
But India refused to buy any pulse that was not fumigated by MB. Although there are so many speculations, but a reason given on public was that MB is a powerful pesticide that not only has got a capacity to kill living pest, it can indeed destroy its eggs.
Now here is the point; India is a buyer, a global leading consumer of pulses, its sheer import capacity is overwhelming, making it have an upper hand in deciding for standards. The global pulses trade is now valued at $100 billion, but India’s share is $50 billion anticipating to expand to $100 billion in 5 – 10 years.
The above reality made Tanzania to stand down and restore MB’s application on pulses, or else we were going to lose big time. In this case a farmer in Babati, Masasi, Bariadi or Kagera has got no control over the situation; someone in Mumbai stood high chance of impoverishing or improving his living standard.
So that is agriculture value chain. It is a chain indeed that renders no one less important. The puller inextricably bound to the pulled that anyone trying to put them asunder will be likened to a destroyer.