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  • Cashew farmers call for govt intervention over price controversy 10/27/2022

    Oct 27th, 2022

    Cashewnut farmers in Mtwara and Lindi regions have called for government intervention after the first three raw cashew nut (RCN) auctions flopped because of claims of inordinately low prices offered by prospective buyers. Farmers refused to sell at least 11,023 tonnes of RCN during auctions in Masasi and Tandahimba in Mtwara and Mtama District Council in Lindi Region at the weekend. On Thursday, members of Masasi and Mtwara Cooperative Union (Mamcu) withheld 6,513 tonnes of RCN after buyers offered a minimum of Sh1,800 and a maximum of Sh2,000 per kilogramme. ALSO READ Petra Diamonds suspends operations at Mwadui mine Business Oct 24 Kenya's SGR contract made public East Africa News Oct 24 Also, their counterparts from Tandahimba and Newala Cooperative Union (Tanecu) rejected Sh1,630 to Sh2,011 offers for 1,610 tonnes of RCN that were on sale. On Friday, members of Lindi Mwambao Cooperative Union (LMCU), who had 2,900 tonnes of raw cashews, rejected offers that ranged from Sh1,507 to Sh1,900. Yesterday, Ruangwa, Nachingwea and Liwale Cooperative Union (Runali) was expected to hold its first auction, and the fourth for the 2022/23 trading season. Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, Newala Farmers Association (Nefa) chairman Issa Mnaly said farmers have received news of low prices with great frustration. “This is because weather changes have adversely affected cashew yields this season. Therefore, farmers had expected good prices for their harvests to save them from financial ruin. “The government’s urgent intervention is required for farmers to get better prices. The intervention should focus on raising the price of RCN to least at Sh2,500, which will enable farmers to recover production expenses,” he added. A resident of Chingulungulu Village in Masasi District, Ms Delfina Paul, said farmers have been digging deep into their pockets every year to meet production expenses. “The government should work with cooperative unions to rescue farmers because prices that have been offered so far are unrealistically low,” she said. Another cashewnut farmer from Mtama District Council, Mr Cornel Ngugahambi, said the farmers’ boycott has been triggered by the possibility of failure to recoup production costs. “We have refused to sell our produce to give buyers time to rethink, and increase their offers to a minimum of Sh2,500,” he said. Mr Khamis Achacha from Lindi Region said, “Prices should be revised to create a win-win situation for all. It is unacceptable for rice to be more expensive than raw cashew nuts.” The Tandahimba District Council agricultural sector in-charge, Mr Issa Naumanga, said farmers’ concerns were understandable because offers were “very low” compared to production costs borne by growers. He called for talks involving various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) and Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade. “There was a time when Parliament proposed the introduction of price caps. Reduction of levies that buyers have to pay could also have a positive impact on RCN prices,” Mr Naumanga said. Although it is difficult to implement, prices top-ups could also address farmers’ complaints, he added, noting that the government should also investigate claims of cartels in the cashew business. However, Mr Naumanga said low prices may also have been caused by huge RCN stocks held by key importers, including Vietnam and India. “Weather changes have also pushed forward the 2022/23 cashew trading season. The product is now traded around the same time as our competitors in Western countries, thus widening the choice of raw materials,” he said. “For us who have been mobilising farmers to increase cashew production, low price offers have been hurting and disappointing us.” Speaking in Mtama on Saturday, CBT acting director general Francis Alfred pledged to stand with farmers in protecting their interests. “CBT is a public institution mandated to protect the interests of farmers, and not otherwise. The low prices should mobilise farmers to increase domestic processing,” he said. In Chingulungulu Village, Masasi District Commissioner Claudia Kitta said farmers’ complaints would be forwarded to higher authorities for further decisions and assessments. In May, this year, CBT said the target was to produce 400,000 tonnes in the 2022/23 season. This is a 69 percent increase compared to 236,213 tonnes produced in the 2021/22 season.