Commenting on the Ministry of Agriculture’s proposed budget for the 2018/19 financial year, the committee’s vice chairperson Dr Christine Ishengoma noted that despite its undisputed importance to the national economy, the agricultural sector remains the least prioritised with the powers-that-be doing little to rectify matters.
According to Dr Ishengoma, in the year 2010/11 the sector received 7.8 per cent of the total national budget, but this has declined steadily in subsequent years.
The sector received 6.9 percent of the budget in 2011/12, 4.9 percent in 2016/17, and only 4.8 percent in 2017/18, she noted.
“Investigations have shown that Tanzania is at the bottom in the list of East African country allocations to the agriculture sector, securing 3.1 points out of 10 in implementing the Malabo agreement,” she said.
Agriculture Minister Charles Tizeba had asked parliament to approve a 170 billion/- budget for his ministry to implement various projects during 2018/19.
Rwanda is the leading nation in the East African Community (EAC) bloc in terms of budgetary allocations to agriculture, securing 6.1 points and followed by Kenya (4.1 points), Burundi and Uganda (4.7 points.)
Dr Ishengoma’s committee advised that for Tanzania to achieve its industrialisation agenda, the budgetary allocation for agriculture should be increased to at least 10 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.
The committee warned that if the trend of declining agro budgets continues, the poverty chain will continue to tighten since the majority of Tanzanians depend on agriculture to provide their livelihoods.
“Poverty will be a perpetual song in most parts of the country, so this committee calls on the government to implement the Malabo and Maputo agreements with actions,” Dr Ishengoma added.
Members of parliament who commented on the agriculture ministry’s budget estimates noted that most farmers in rural areas are wallowing in dire poverty despite investing energy and money in crops production.
Mufindi MP Mahmoud Mgimwa opposed the Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank (TADB)’s decision to set up its headquarters in Dar es Salaam instead of in areas where farmers are primarily located.
“How can a farmer travel from Biharamulo to Dar es Salaam just to seek a bank loan to improve his or her produce? This is unfair,” Mgimwa said.
Another MP, Richard Ndassa (Sumve - CCM) said the government has been imposing crop prices that do not help farmers to move out of poverty.
Ndassa criticised the government’s decision to restore the cooperative unions system of selling cotton, saying the same system had earlier failed farmers.
Meanwhile, a consortium of civil society organisations and farmers has claimed that the low budgetary allocation for the agricultural sector is derailing efforts to make the sector the backbone of the economy.
Addressing a press conference shortly after the ministry’s budget estimates were presented in parliament, the group said the government needs to come up with stronger strategies on how best to create new revenue generation that will facilitate better budgetary allocations all around.
The consortium members include Forum CC, Action Aid, Oxfam, and the Women Small Scale Farmers Forum in Chamwino (JUWWACHA), among others.