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May 29, 2011

Tanzania seeks to revamp cashew nut sector

by Leonard Magomba

Tanzania is seeking to revamp its defunct cashew nut processing factories to boost production of the crop which brought home $133 million in the year ending February 2011.

Government will also construct more factories, said Hemedi Mkali, the acting Chairman of Tanzania Cashewnut Board (CBT). Most of the former factories that were privatised are not functional in what could be hurting productivity of the sector.

Tanzania’s earnings from cashew nut exports went up 208 per cent during the year ending February 2011, the Bank of Tanzania said in its March 2011 “Monthly Economic Review,” bringing a ray of hope to some 500,000 Tanzanians who engage in small-scale cashew nut farming.

The volume of cashew nut exports went up by 106.9 per cent from 60,300 tonnes to 124,800 tonnes.

“Farmers can no longer export all their nuts, forcing them to sale at low prices. Through value addition, Tanzania will be able to reduce the amount of raw cashew nuts exported and also fetch higher prices,” said Mr Mkali.

Tanzania is Africa’s largest cashew nut grower after Nigeria and Ivory Coast, and the world’s eighth biggest producer. Tanzania’s cashew industry generates at least five per cent of the country’s export earnings.

This is the first time in about four years that production of the nuts has increased. Production has been on the decline since 2007, due to the ageing of the cashew nut trees, a reason given by the Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives ministry.

Beno Mahagama, director general of CBT said the revival of the factories and better global nut prices could improve earnings from the crop further.

Tandahimba district in Mtwara was the leading producer during the season. Regions known for cashewnut growing include Mtwara, Lindi, Coast, Ruvuma and Dar es Salaam. Production in Coast region has, however, been dwindling over the years as farmers seem to lose interest in the crop.

According to the Africa cashewnut dossier, Africa’s production share in the world stands at 30 per cent; world production currently stands at close to 1.2 million tonnes.

Following nationalisation of the cashew sector in the 1970s and investment in large-scale production plants utilising inefficient technology in the 1980s, the industry has experienced troubled times.

Analysts say a viable processing industry could create 30,000 direct jobs and generate $40 million in incremental processing revenues annually.

Africa was producing 70 per cent of world cashew nuts between 1950 and 1970, but problems in the industry that during the time led to India’s take over of the position.

The East African

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