Cassava production in the country has been fluctuating year after year whereby available statistics show that from 2008 to 2019 Tanzania managed to record a significant increase from 5.9 million tons (2008/9) to at least 8.2 million tons in 2018/19.
During 2016/17, a total of 1,202,216 hactares of cassava grown in the country, generated 4,025,265 tonnes, whereby in 2017/18 a total of 983,502 hactares was grown and the yields were 8,372,211 tonnes and 2018/19 the cultivated hactares were 990,835 and the harvested cassava tonnes stood at 8,184,093.
However, the country has the potential to triple the current production and productivity.
Primarily, low uses of improved seed, poor application of improved technology (GAP), unreliable climatic conditions, present of pest and diseases as well as limited cassava product market information appears to stand among chief barrier for the effective metamorphosis of the key sector.
Presently, cassava production in Tanzania remains low when it comes in comparison with demand.
The demand from China which is more than 2 million tonnes of dry cassava, equivalent to 6m tonnes of fresh cassava per year.
The domestic actual demand is not yet established though it was estimated that per capital consumption is 44kg of dried cassava, hence a total of 2.3 million was required by the year 2019/20 out of 2.7 million tonnes of cassava produced in 2017/18.
Based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 's Agricultural Annual Sample Survey of 2017, in Tanzania cassava is cultivated by 1.9 million operators along the value chain.
The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture has set and started to implement numerous viable strategies to improve production and productivity of cassava within the country.
The effort focuses to triple the currently production level so as to meet home demand, but also for export .
According to director for crops in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Nyasebwa Chimagu, the strategies include development of 26 improved cassava variety which are pest and disease tolerant and with high yielding potential, between 16 and 50 tonnes per hactare.
"Moreover, we're working to improve agronomic services and technology to farmers. Tanzania Agricultural Training Institute (TARI) the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and other technology developers have developed agronomic packages such as correct spacing, planting technique, fertilizer rates, weed management, pest and disease management and time and harvesting technologies, " he expressed.
He added, the ministry was also promoting Learning among the farmers and other relevant stakeholders through SMS, APP packaging with a specific technology, radio and TV programmes.
"Currently, the ministry has established M-Kilimo system where farmers are able to send messages through phones and get feedback from extension agents, or subject matter specialists," he explained.
On the same vein, Dr Chimagu said other APP include AKILIMO App packed with various technologies, SEED tractor for cassava seed producer information and NURU for disease identification and management.
"All these efforts aiming to equip farmers with necessary skills and hence improve the current production," he stated.
On top of that, under the Agriculture Sector Development Program (ASDP-II), cassava is one among priority commodity valued chains for lakes, eastern and southern zone under the 'One Region One Commodity initiative.
Currently, there are at least eight medium cassava processing plants that had been registered in Tanzania with estimated production capacity of more than 10,000 tonnes of fresh cassava per year.
However, three out of the industries are currently not operating due to a number of constraints hence hindering farmer to access sustainable markets of their fresh cassava.
Cassava desk officer, Upendo Mndeme, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview that apart from the said eight industries, there are a total of 150 smalls cale cassava processing groups who process irregularly.
According to her, the ministry was working to see establishment of more industries in order to assure famers with reliable markets, but also improve additional value chain for the crop, the development which will also enable the country to maximise exportation of cassava related products.
Statisticaly, Tanzania imports cereal starches from maize, wheat, millet sorghum, potatoes and the lesser extent cassava starch.
Cassava starch has special merits such as high paste clarity (48.32pc), followed by potatoes (42.16pc), and least for sweet potato derived starches (23.22pc), while all cereal starches paste clarity is 14.97 pc.
"Its high time for cassava value chain actors and investors to invest largely in establishment of high value cassava products processing plants in order to tape the existing potential," Mndeme observed.
However, establishment of Tanzania Cassava Producers and Processors Association (TCPPA), a vital platform to organise cassava value chain actors is viewed as a crucial stride made by the government to propel to cassava processing industries.
The platform was formed in tandem with Cassava Seed Growers Association.
Apart from being used as food and animal feed, cassava can be used in various ways. For instance, high quality cassava flour can be used as a substitute for wheat by up to 30pc in the making of breads, cakes, biscuits and other confectioneries and pastries.
Moreover, cassava starch can be used in confectionary industries, automotive and dry cell batteries, petroleum drilling, paints, pharmaceuticals, adhesives, iron ore mining, laundry, paper, soap and detergent, packaging materials and in cosmetic industries.