Low sesame price hurts farmers

27Feb 2016
Crispin Gerald
The Guardian
Low sesame price hurts farmers

Sesame farmers in Bahi District, Dodoma Region have raised concern over extreme low prices for the crops, crying foul over the unnecessary long and haphazard chain of intruders on the way to the consumer market.

They urged for government intervention in getting them rid of the middlemen, they alleged were corrupting the market by dipping prices of sesame and other crops they produce at the detriment of the farmers.

“The government should set specific regulations to stop middlemen from dipping prices of sesame and other crops down to their own advantages,” Joel Ndalu, a sesame grower.

He accused the middlemen of cheating on innocent farmers through manipulation of weights when purchasing agro products from the producers.

“Sesame should be considered commercial crop and that the government should take control over both its production and market,” he said.

“The middlemen are forcing us into selling our produce at throw away prices just because we don’t have other option of accessing reliable market for sesame,” he explained.

Sesame prices dropped down to as low as Sh1500 per kilogramme in the last production season, with middlemen attributing the fall to the decline in the world market.

Ndalu raised the concern this week during the field visit to Bahi by experts from Tanzania Smallholder Sesame Production and Marketing Project (TSSPMP) 2015-18 carried out in districts in three regions including Bahi in Dodoma, Manyoni in Singida and Babati in Manyara.

The project carried out jointly by Farm Africa as major sponsor and partners including Africa Institute for Economic and Social Development (INADES) currently in Bahi and the National Network of Farmers Groups in Tanzania (Mviwata) working across the three districts, basically focuses on improving production, quality, management of marketing practices and incorporation of small holders into the sesame value chain.

It is financed by UK-based Comic Relief charity organization that is expected to pour a total of Sh3bn to the ambitious agro project.

“The project aims at supporting us in increasing production of sesame by using modern means, including seeds known as ‘Lindi 2002’ from which we expect harvest boom this season,” Ndalu said.

Farmer Amosi Stewart said the project has increased his skills in farming, saying the new methods would more than triple their harvest from 2-3 bags to about 8 bags per acre.

But he echoed Ndalu’s complaints, calling not only for elimination of middlemen posing as auctioneers, but for government subsidies to ensure reliable market for sesame.

“We ask the government to subsidize sesame crop just like other commercial produces given its importance in the national economy,” Stewart asked.

Mviwata Executive Director Steven Ruvuga also appealed to the government to do away with all barriers facing sesame production and to create suitable circumstances reminiscent of major world exporters’ like China, Japan, India, Ethiopia and Sudan, to boost production of the crop.

Tanzania was the fifth world sesame exporter after the four countries, but Japan in 2013, according to Ruvuga.
Commenting, Bahi District Executive Director (DED) Rachel Chuwa pledged to cooperate with farmers to ensure the government provided them with subsidy so that they would no longer sell their produces in the market area.