The Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) in Arusha, is determined to ensure that the implementation of the East African Common Market Protocol benefits the agricultural sector in the region.
Arusha Regional TCCIA Chairman Adolf Olomi said in an interview that the agricultural sector in the region is a sleeping giant that needs to be tapped into the implementation of the East African Common Market Protocol to create opportunities for young people and the business community in Tanzania.
Latest figures on Tanzania's exports to other partner states in the EAC have increased from USD96.4m in 2005 to USD450m in 2010.
However, Olomi said that the figures were still too small compared to the nation’s potential.
He said in an interview that the agri-sector in Arusha region has been in the doldrums for years, adding that despite some gains in horticulture and other cash crop related ventures, there is a great deal more than can be achieved.
TCCIA-Arusha has commissioned ongoing research into the challenges and opportunities in the implementation of the East African Common Market Protocol and Tanzania’s role in creating a conducive environment for increased private sector participation within and outside the country.
According to studies carried out in recent years, Arusha Region and Tanzania in general, could benefit substantially from the implementation of the two-year-old EAC Common Market Protocol.
Agribusiness researcher Geoffrey M. Kalugendo of Africa Source Investment Trade and Environment Management says that preliminary investigations indicate that a re-organisation at sectoral level is a basic necessity for the agri-sector to realise the greatest benefits.
“Arusha is growing a range of high quality products that have great demand in the EAC, especially in Kenya. This includes oranges, onions, beans, maize and several other crops. But because of the failure to organise the industry, we end up getting only the minimum benefit from the exportation of the crops,” Kalugendo says.
“For the agri-sector to benefit from the implementation of the common market, producers and traders should stop operating individually and get organized into groups and cooperative entities,” he explains.
He says that getting the farmers organised should be a priority and that it is crucial for the region and the country at large to benefit from the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol.
A good number of Kenyan traders have reached a point where they don’t buy products from Arusha Region as individuals, but instead as organised entities.
“One person will come to buy representing an entity or a group. They will buy at the source at low prices. Then, on reaching Nairobi, they use international standard packaging for selling the produce in Kenya. They then re-export the rest,” Kalugendo explains.
The researcher says that there is something to learn from the defunct EAC before its collapse. He says during that period farmers were organised in three groups - individuals (co-operatives), commercial and plantation.
“The co-operatives gave the peasant farmers acollective bargaining power. Today, farmers are on their own negotiating prices at individual levels with highly experienced traders from the EAC,” he says.
He laments that preliminary research shows few linkages between farmers and research institutions in Tanzania, unlike in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, where they are involved directly in agri-research.
At the same time, he says the linkage of agriculture with infrastructure has not been well defined. “For our agri-export business to blossom geographically, road, rail and water transport must be linked up in a coherent way that will be understood by our farmers and traders,” he says.
The researcher notes that Tanzania has prepared a lot of documents for agri-marketing, but practical application was wanting, with government imposed programmes not working properly.
The Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market entered into force on July 1, last year following ratification by all five partner states - Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
TCCIA Arusha’s mission is to facilitate private sector development in Tanzania by providing exceptional value to members and the business community through the provision of demand-driven advocacy, business information, linkages, business development services and other relevant services in a more professional, resourceful and sustainable manner.
Currently, the chamber has 522 members from the TCCIA Arusha City and the district chambers of Arumeru, Karatu, Longido, Ngorongoro and Monduli.