The debate on the policy of cashewnut marketing and the present predicament facing the crop has been described as a challenge between the state and the private sector in the control of input and output markets.
More efficient cashew producing countries in Africa and Asia have taken much of Tanzania’s market share and without eliminating the anti-liberalisation and anti-private trader attitudes by key government actors in the cashewnut sector, this trend is likely continue.
This was said on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam at a workshop aimed at analysing the cashewnut marketing situation and how the market and the state have failed to make rightful interventions.
Presenting an analysis on the crop, a stakeholder from Tanzania Development Research Group, Brian Cooksey stressed that the current market failure of the crop is a result of institutional misunderstanding between the cashew producers, the state and private traders.
He said the players are not in a position to solve to make rightful interventions in the market but are engaged in long term competitiveness of the Tanzanian cashew nut industry.
He said that there is need for a more fruitful approach that would be to ask what roles the state and its agents and the private sector should play to make markets work more efficiently, balancing the need for competition and coordination.
Cooksey said that Tanzania’s experience of capital intensive cashew processing has been a costly failure, adding that ‘reviving’ the cashew factories is not a viable option.
Labour-intensive processing can replace the export of raw nuts if adequate tax and investment incentives are put in place, he underlined.
According to him, to date, there has been no systematic attempt by the government to do this.
He added: “Our review suggests a minimal role for the state and its agents.”
“This is not based on an ideological rejection of the merits of state intervention per se, but on the critique of past state intervention in Tanzania,” he added.
On the other side, Bakari Seif from Masasi High Quality Farmers Products, a firm that deals with cashew nuts in Mtwara, said that smallholder cashew farmers in six villages in the district do not have reliable markets for their crops.
He said among problems they face are low prices and insecure market, expensive inputs, lack of capital and knowledge on cashewnut farming and adverse weather conditions.
“Government should come clear on this: who is who, who takes care of what, and who is answerable for what when it comes to the buyers,” he said adding that cashew nut farmers should be organised in a producer owned organisation that can be their voice.