They made the call yesterday here when speaking at the cross-border symposium organised by NAFAKA, an important component of USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative, in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Foreign Affairs’ Ministry.
Held in the green city of Mbeya, the symposium brought on board small-scale farmers, and financial institutions.
One of the farmers, Kenan Sanga said southern highlands produce large amount of food crops, but farmers are overwhelmed with myriads of challenges including lack of reliable market for their produces.
“Those challenges are what thwarting us to move forward in terms of development,” he told the gathering.
Sanga who is a chairman of Rice Growers Association in Igurusi area of Mbarali District said that Usangu is the leading basin for producing rice in the country, but farmers are let unattended when it comes to market.
“That’s why we’re asking the government to transform Igurusi market as key trading centre for collecting, processing, and selling rice in the country,” Sanga said amid applause.
According to him, Igurusi market is a well-furnished with all the required infrastructures, but it’s under-utilised, that’s why it is important for transforming into a major rice trading centre in the country.
“This will be a turning point for farmers as they will have a reliable market of what they produce,” he said.
Iringa-based maize processor, Ezra Francis also decried over countless permits an entrepreneurs can have to export goods.
“This is an area that the government needs to work on if Tanzania’s goods are to compete in the international markets,” he said.
Regional Coordinator of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Emily Malinza urged business community to use proper ways of importing and exporting goods for smooth business operation.
He also urged rice growers to use the opportunity of being close to the border of Zambia and Malawi by exporting the crop to those countries.
“But, what you need is to ensure you export processed and well packaged rice,” he suggested.
Mbeya District Commissioner, Paul Ntinika admitted that market remained a serious challenge for rice farming in the region, urging different players to link farmers with reliable markets. He also asked Tanzania Bureau of Stan dards (TBS) to chip-in and assist farmers on how they can produce and process quality rice that can compete in the international markets.
NAFAKA southern highlands’ director, Silas Nghabhi said that the symposium provided opportunity for farmers and other players in the agricultural sector to discuss various ways of improving production as well as packaging so that goods get into the competitive regional and global markets.