Deputy Minister for Land, Housing and Human Settlement Development, Angelina Mabula said in Tanga earlier this week that the farms have not been developed as per the privatization agreement hence will be repossessed by the state and given to smallholder farmers.
“I have visited all the 14 farms and seen no investment to revive them as per government’s agreement and as such, we will advise the president to repossess them and give ordinary farmers to cultivate,” Mabula said.
She expressed frustration that the Dar es Salaam based commodities and manufacturing conglomerate has failed to develop the farms but used the assets as collateral to get bank loans for investment elsewhere.
“Mohamed Enterprises gave us as government wrong information which borders on cheating the state because none of these farms have been developed,” a vividly frustrated Mabula charged after inspecting the farms which have been idle while thousands of smallholder farmers lack land to grow the fibre.
“President Magufuli’s government cannot tolerate this kind of laxity which defeats the whole idea of agriculture modernization and industrialization,” the Deputy Minister noted. During her visit to Tanga, she heard several complaints from farmers concerning lack of land to cultivate while Dar es Salaam based big business people hoard huge swathes of prime land.
“So far, my ministry is convinced that these Mohamed Enterprises farms should be repossessed and distributed to smallholder farmers who are in need of land for farming,” she stressed.
But MeTL’s Farm Manager, Newalo Nyari disputed the deputy minister’s arguments saying part of the farms are cultivated by smallholder farmers while some are under cultivation by the company. “We have also deliberately left some as fallow for conservation purposes,” Nyari argued but failed completely to convince Mabula who stood her ground that the farms should be distributed to smallholder farmers.
Tanga which is the country’s largest sisal producer has seen production slightly increase though not to levels reached in 1970s/80s due to poor investments which forced government to privatise them between 1995 and 2001.
According to Tanzania Sisal Board, production of sisal fibre increased from 34,527 tonnes in 2011 to 40,001 tonnes in 2015 before dropping to 36,753 in 2016. The TSB plans to increase production to 80,000 tonnes by 2022 through increasing productivity from the current average of 0.5 tonnes per hectare to an average of 1.6 tonnes.