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May 17, 2008

Fruit processing plant opens in Tanzania

Fruit farmers in Tanzania can now profit from their harvest following the opening in April of a $7 million fruit processing factory in Morogoro.

Morogoro and Tanga are major producers of fruits in Tanzania, but most of it goes to waste or is sold to middlemen from Dar es Salaam at throwaway prices. The farmers will now have a ready and steady market for their produce.

The UNNAT Fruits Processing Ltd in Morogoro’s Export Processing Zone, has a capacity to process 140 tonnes of raw fruit a day, which is equivalent to over 2,500 tonnes per annum of juice concentrate.

The plant is currently doing 100 tonnes of its installed capacity and will operate for at least 12 months before going into full capacity. Some 15,000 farmers have already entered into contractS with the plant to supply it with pineapples and oranges. The contracts will boost farmers’ income.

According to UNNAT, the target was to have 75,000 farmers registered with the company in Morogoro and the neighbouring Tanga region by the year 2010.

Centres for collecting fruit have been established at Mkuyuni, Matombo, Kiroka, Chalinze and Muheza.

Administration and human resources manager Nisarg Thakore said 10 centres had so far been established and 15 more are in the pipeline. Mr Thakore said that so far, the firm has exported 10 tonnes of concentrate worth some $270,000, most of it to Qatar.

"The factory’s policy is to buy from farmers regardless of the size of fruit loads,” he said. He said the plant will later produce diluted juice for the local market and export to the region, to be sold at competitive prices compared with imported juices.

The opening of the plant is expected to make fruit farming sustainable. The plant also gives back to the farmers as fertiliser, fermented organic remains from the concentrate to use as fertiliser.

“Besides giving the farmers a guaranteed market we have reserved 11 per cent of shares in the company to be sold to them,” said Mr Thakore, adding that to qualify, all a farmers needs to do is sell at least 500 tonnes of fruit to UNNAT.

In the absence of extension workers, UNNAT management is conducting workshops and seminars for farmers to educate them on the best methods of planting and caring for their fruits.

Even though the emphasis now is on oranges and pineapples, the factory will in the second half of this year start buying mangoes, passion fruit and banana for export to Europe where there is a large market.

The East African

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