It is also central to sustainable development of the country as it contributes to almost 24 percent of the country’s GDP.
Equally, agriculture is a leading sector that employs majority of its citizens approximately 75 percent of the whole population and the majority of them are living in rural areas.
Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) did a situation analysis in 2012, and revealed that the country was losing up to 50 percent of agricultural produce during production and post-harvest. In some cases farmers loose up to 100 percent mainly due to pests, diseases, poor storing and weather extremes.
Presenting his report to the National Assembly in Dodoma recently the Controller and Auditor General Prof Mussa Juma Assad said agricultural crop pests and diseases outbreaks in Tanzania have not been adequately reduced the impact caused by the outbreaks as in most parts of Tanzania as there is a public outcry regarding productivity loss prevailing in the country.
“Crop pests and diseases outbreaks contribute to more yields loss. This situation prompted the audit office to carry out a performance audit on management of agricultural crop pests and diseases outbreaks in Tanzania by the ministry of agriculture livestock and fisheries (MALF),” he explained.
Furthermore, the audit findings have revealed that agriculture crop pests and diseases outbreaks had affected farmers almost all regions in Tanzania. The area infested ranges from 81 hectares to 200,000 hectares, among many.
According to their findings from January to November, 2014, about 2,964,240 banana plants were reported to have been infected with xanthomonas wilt. So, in order to prevent further spread of the disease, around 2,877,653 banana plants worth 28,776,530,000/-, were uprooted, which actually is a loss of incomes to farmers.
Yet, low application of technologies, including use of poor quality farm inputs and management affects the yield in significantly. Along the value chain, more losses in agriculture is recorded due to poor harvesting technology, lack of adequate storage warehouses, and lack of substantial agro-processing skills and industry.
This logically means since crops and livestock contribute up to 3trn/- to the national economy; losing up 50 percent of expected crops yield could be translated as losing a trillion annually. The loss at farm gate adversely affects farmers' incomes and along the crop value-chain the country economic is significantly affected.
For Tanzania to build industrial economy, agriculture growth should be at least 10 percent produce sufficient raw materials as the sector needs to grow by at least by six per cent per a year to create an impact in food security and incomes.
Their findings showed that most of the Local government authorities (LGAs) visited did not regularly do forecasting of pests at the same time there was an absence of pheromone traps in some LGAs.
Further more, the audit team found that trainings were not sufficiently conduc5ted and didi not cover all farmers’ and also most of the extension agents have limited knowledge in integrated pests management methods approaches.
The reasons for insufficient trainings were due to under-release of funds and shortage of agricultural extension officers in all visited LGAs. Similarly, the auditors noted that in some villages from the seven visited LGAs, there were no agricultural extension officers, and those available are not well equipped with the knowledge on agricultural crop pests and diseases outbreaks.
Accessibility of improved seeds and pesticides for controlling pests and diseases still a major challenge that needed to be addressed. It was indicated that subsides on farm inputs although were given to farmers, but did not reach all farmers across the country. On top of that there was a delay in accessing those improved seeds through subsides in most cases. Moreover, accessibility of pesticides in terms of quality and quality also remained a challenge.
What to do to improve production
Other findings indicate that the cotton sub-sector needs to improve the use of inputs such as quality seeds and fertilizers to boost yields. The country should also make sure it adds value to its cotton before exporting, the current data shows that we exports up to 80 per cent of our cotton in the form of fibre, no value-added. In the current global economy, we are making loss.
Cotton is the second major export crop after coffee. The sub-sector employs 40 per cent of the agricultural workforce, and covers 9 per cent of all cultivated land in Tanzania.
The cotton yield in Tanzania is about 550 kilogrammes per hectare. This is only about a half of the yields recorded by West African farmers and is equivalent to a quarter of the global yield average.
At processing stage, Tanzanian ginneries operate at 40 percent of respective installed capacities. While only 20 percent of cotton lint is utilised by Tanzania textile industry to manufacture ‘khanga, vitenge, vikoi’, and bed sheets. As a result the country has been importing textile products, particularly garments and fabric.
Tanzania cotton farmers wear clothes made from cotton produced by Chinese or Indian farmers. In this case Tanzania cotton farmers have been turned to be the market for the Chinese and Indian cotton farmers.
“We need to diversify the use of cotton seeds for both edible oil production and animal feed so that we reduce the importation of the edible oil we consume. Thus, any effort to establish a modern textile industry needs to consider on how to increase the production of cotton.”
Rice accounts for 20 per cent of the cereal consumption in Tanzania with 50 per cent of the consumers living in urban areas where there is little or no farming. Still, there is a possibility of the domestic demand for rice increasing in the foreseeable future due to growth of middle income earners. If Tanzania will improve rice yields by 20 per cent, we will be able to feed the whole of East African region.
Rice farming in Tanzania, the crop yield is 1:50 tonnes per hectare, the rate need to be improved by at least 20 per cent.
As of now Tanzania imports up to 900,000 tonnes of rice annually, an amount which can be cut down if we invest in technology to improve productivity of the crop and at the same time, maximising farmers' incomes.
The challenges affecting rice production include poor inputs, poor harvesting technology, crop diseases and post-harvest losses which are estimated to be up to 50 per cent.
The cassava sub-sector has considerable potential. However, cassava faces a negative image from the general populace and also does have a poor export market. In any case, cassava production is generally too low to create an economic fortune among farmers.
Although cassava has so many value-addition opportunities in the bakery and biscuits manufacturing industry, as well as in livestock feed production, beer production and in starch production. The production of the crop in Tanzania is still crude; the crop is poorly managed, with poor processing tools and storage facilities.
Cassava helps Tanzania as the reserve cereal during drought; it supports 37 per cent of livelihood creation, and is a source of income for millions of Tanzanians. About 84 per cent of all the cassava produced in Tanzania is used for human consumption.
The production of cassava is affected by cassava mosaic virus, cassava brown streak virus, cassava bacterial blight, cassava anthracnose, and root rot. Pests, diseases and poor agricultural practices cause losses up to 50 percent in all growing areas.
Together cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava mosaic disease (CMD) cause production losses worth more than US$1 billion every year and are a threat to food and income security for over 30 million farmers growing the crops in East and Central Africa.
On milk production, sub-sector is also facing the production and post-harvest losses problem largely because of poor farming facilities, package and lack of transport from the farm gate to the market.
However, dairy farmers get maximum incomes when they sell their products directly to consumers rather than selling to milk processors or traders.
The farmers who sell their milk directly to consumers earn 1,000/- per litre, while those selling to processors and traders earn between 600/- and 700/- respectively.
It is estimated that per capita milk consumption in Tanzania is a low 45 litres per year. Kenyans consume an average 90 litres, while the global average is 200 litres per year.