WE are now in the season in which it’s normal to hear multiple deafening calls from vegetable vendors in the streets of Dar es Salaam.
”Simply informing residents to step out of their houses and buy pigeonpeas, the highly valuable pulse. Unlike other sort of pulses, like dry beans which are consumed throughout the season, pigeonpeas are largely consumed during the harvesting time.
And there is a reason behind that consumption pattern. Tanzanians prefers green pigeonpeas as opposed to dry ones. This is because dry pigeonpeas tends to have a hard outer cover (grain coat) whose taste is weird. Some scientists argue that those covers contain some inhibitors which out a stoppage to some nutrients from being absorbed into blood after a complete digestion.
No wonder in communities which are voracious eaters of the dried legume prefers to split the grains before they are consumed. Splitting not only cuts the cotyledons into pieces, it starts by removing the strange testa and so making it more delicious.
In Tanzania, this practice is immature because there are very few processing machines to do the splitting task. This is unlike the case in paddy and maize whose milling machines (which processes paddy into rice and maize into flour) are well spread across the country, even to some of the innermost villages.
This shortage of machines makes pigeonpeas less consumed during off season than it is during the season because at least at times as such as these farmers are able to harvest the green ones for the bigger niche market. Well, that might be a story for another day.
We are currently in the harvesting season of Pigeonpeas and Chickpeas. We are done with Green grams pains now because it didn’t attract good price this year, as it was being harvested in the month of April, largely due to India’s import restrictions.
The toll has been audible because India is the perennial major buyer of the crop in the world. Our market intelligence shows that next year things may not be different from this year so Tanzania needs to either negotiate well with it or find an alternative market. Pigeonpeas is arguably the only crop that has brought good shocks to many Tanzanians this year after its prices shot to around 2,200/- a kilo.
This price was lastly seen about seven years ago, there was a moment when it was selling at 200 a kilo – in the year 2017 to be specific. Overwhelmed by happiness, farmers had to play traditional dances to express their not-longer uncontainable joy.
All thanks should go to the Government of India for their strong act of friendship after giving Tanzania a quota of about 200,000 tonnes in the beginning of this year. It is highly expected that next year production of Pigeonpeas will go through the roof. We are told that demand for Mbaazi’s improved seeds from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) has gone up very rapidly as many people wants to make sure that they producing enough next year.
This is what we have been emphasizing almost every time, that if you want to improve value chain of any crop you have got start by securing the stable market first.
Even if you will accidentally fail meet other challenges people will forgive you and find a way to go around them and deliver the best results as we are now seeing that people are wrestling to get pigeonpeas’ improved seeds at the market price even without asking for a discount.
There needs a very substantial supply of funds for Pigeonpeas seeds production this time around.
The Government can organize importation of the same form neighboring countries to fill in the current gap, and at the same time secure a bilateral agreement with the Government of India on Pigeon peas so that next year we don’t go back to the prices of 2017 or even lower than that.
Chickpeas are another pulse that is on demand this year. It is trading at around 1580 Shillings a kilo in Dar es Salaam. Very good price. We are not so sure where is largely going this year after India reduced its import from Tanzania last year.
In the year 2022, we exported a total of 165,497 tons of chickpeas – the biggest quantity to be exported from Tanzania in the space of about five years – of which 44 percent of it went to Pakistan followed by India by 38 percent. By and large, save for green grams, there seems to be a good market for pulses this year around.
In situations such as these any astute business minded person will think on how preserve the status quo making sure that these markets are protected with the envy they deserve so that farmers will rest from crying wolf every year and make an entire pulses value chain profitable.