According to press reports, the government of Tanzania is proposing the creation of a horticulture board to help farmers defend their own interests, including avoiding low prices for their produce. According to Uledi Musa, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, “horticulture products are high value crops whose demand has been growing,” but little has been done to date to protect the farmers themselves through the government’s efforts to promote the sector. It is in this context that the proposal for the establishment of a horticulture board is seen as important, if the expansion of the sector is to be sustained and supported.
The Permanent Secretary argued that such a board could focus on value addition as the key to expanding the sector and strengthening the functioning of cold storage chains. Horticulture sector stakeholders have welcomed the move.
This initiative taken by the Tanzanian government needs to be seen against the background of renewed investment interest in the Tanzanian horticulture sector as a consequence of the delays in finalising the EAC–EU EPA, which could adversely impact on the exports of the EAC region’s largest horticultural producer, Kenya.
The setting up of a horticulture board in Tanzania could assist in the development of the horticulture sector in several ways, depending on how it is structured. In recent years, the more effective commodity boards have brought together organised producer associations, government departments, traders and retailers to facilitate the development of more efficient supply chains.
While efforts have often focused on serving high-value international markets, initiatives can also help to substantially develop local horticultural supply chains. The Namibian Agronomic Board’s horticulture development initiative, designed to increase the supply of locally produced vegetables to the national market, is a case in point.
The Namibian scheme was underpinned by an assessment of which horticultural products could be commercially produced in Namibia. It brought together producers, traders and retailers to heighten awareness of the scope for expanded local production, and launched a dialogue on practical areas where local sourcing could be improved. Using closed market information systems, retailers and traders were made aware of what was available, while producers were made aware of what was needed, when and in what quantities. This encouraged stakeholders to agree supply contracts, which it far easier to mobilise local financing. Issues of quality and standards were then discussed bilaterally between producers and retailers.
Government policy meanwhile used “controlled product” regulations, to link the issuing of import permits to the attainment of local procurement targets. The transparent and accountable application of this scheme has seen local sourcing of the products concerned rise from 5 to 35% over 10 years (see Agritrade article ‘ Horticulture development programmes under way’, 29 August 2009 and ‘ Efforts under way to consolidate gains in local horticultural production’, 27 September 2010).
The Namibian experience could hold lessons for the planned Tanzanian horticulture board, particularly given the growing challenges that are faced both in meeting increasingly strict EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements, and the increasing costs of placing horticultural products on the EU market (see Agritrade article ‘ UK moves to full cost recovery for SPS inspections, but no agreement yet...’, 9 June 2014). “Walking on two legs” – by developing parallel export markets and domestic markets for horticulture products – could prove more sustainable in the long term, particularly as processes of regional market integration gain pace.