The Agriculture Council of Tanzania (ACT) chairman, Dr Sinare Yusufu told a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday ahead of agribusiness East Africa Congress which starts in the city today that for rapid reduction of poverty in the country, the government must invest more in rural areas where farming is the main occupation.
“The economy has been growing at an average of 7 per cent while agriculture does simply 4 per cent per annum which is why efforts to reduce poverty are not bearing fruits rapidly,” Dr Sinare said.
He pointed out that the 10 per cent budget allocation is an old figure agreed by African leaders over 15 years ago but the government has never met the target despite being signatory to the African Union Maputo Declaration.
“In order for agriculture to have an impact on the majority of the people’s lives who are farmers, the government must allocate 10 per cent of the annual budget which will push annual growth to the level of economic growth,” he argued.
Dr Sinare said currently ACT is in touch with Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries over the budget making process and hopes to influence President John Pombe Magufuli’s maiden budget by making sure that it allocates 10 per cent.
“Currently we are barely producing surplus food, the trend is not consistent because of the many hurdles which farmers face,” he noted saying poor technology, lack of skills and financing are some of the problems which need government commitment to address.
At the second ordinary assembly of the African Union held in July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, African heads of state and government agreed allocate at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development by 2008.
Addressing the same news briefing, Kevin Lesser of John Deere’s tactical marketing manager for sub -Sahara Africa said the country has huge potential to be the food basket of the region. “This country has a lot of potential to be the food basket for southern Africa,” Kevin Lesser said, saying local farmers simply need training, technology and finance to become commercial food producers.
He said John Deere has worked with local maize farmers who produced 1.7 metric tons per hectare but after training and giving them appropriate technology, the yields increased to six metric tons for the same plot of land.
The German Export Association for Food and Agriproducts (GEFA) Chairman, Dr Franz von Busse also backed Dr Sinare and Lesser’s observation, saying his company, Pottinger is working with potato farmers in Iringa Region who are already using modern technology which has improved the quality and quantity of the commodity.
“German technology is available to farmers all types, small medium and large commercial producers,” Dr von Busse said.
The 3rd Agrobusiness East Africa Congress starts is expected to be attended by over 600 people including 40 agriculture related companies.