Speaking in the National Assembly here, Mwijage said it was sad to see huge amounts of money being spent on importing toothpicks in large containers while raw materials to make them locally are in abundance.
“I am not happy with this country having to import even toothpicks. At least 800 containers of toothpicks are imported by our businesspeople. The cost of one toothpick machine is only $28,000,” he said.
He called on legislators to “help me find people who can make toothpicks using leftovers from local wood.” Mwijage said once it was agreed in parliament that toothpicks should be manufactured within the country instead of imported from outside, he would personally direct the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) to ban further importation of toothpicks.
The minister was responding to a supplementary question from Paschal Haonga (Mbozi–CHADEMA) who wanted to know when the government would stop the importation of toothpicks.
MP Haonga noted that Tanzania has a lot of raw materials for manufacturing the product, yet it still comes from abroad. Another MP, Adadi Rajabu (Muheza –CCM), wanted to know when the government would establish a juice-processing plant in his constituency to help address market challenges facing fruit farmers in the area.
According to Rajabu, Muheza district in Tanga region is rich in various types of fruits including oranges, mangoes and jackfruit, but the local farmers lack markets for their produce.
The installation of large-scale juice-processing machineries will bring the markets closer to the farmers, the legislator said. Responding, Mwijage said his ministry was encouraging the private sector to respond to the challenge.
He revealed that one investor, the M/S Sasumua Holdings company, had established a major fruit farming project in Kwamsisi-Handeni, Tanga region which directly involves outgrowers.
The same investor is also constructing a fruit factory which would be ready for production by 2018, he added. “The investor has chosen to start with pineapples…it’s my expectation that the investor’s achievements will attract others to invest in the fruit processing industry,” said Mwigaje.
M/S Sasumua Holdings is expected to invest in 17,000 hectares of land and would outsource fruits from out growers who have a total of 3,000 hectares of farms for the crop.