The government has been asked to take immediate measures to rescue over 600bn/- lost annually due to post harvest loss of various crops countrywide.
Speaking at the closure of a weeklong mango processing and entrepreneurship training, Association of Mango Growers (Amagro) executive officer Ahmad Mkopi said such measures would include provision of training on food processing, infrastructure construction, capital and a conducive environment for small scale producers to work.
The seven-day training was organised by Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) and it attracted 25 food processors from four coastal regions. The regions are Dar es Salaam, Coast, Morogoro and Tanga.
Explaining he said lack of food processing knowledge has made many farmers fail to process their crops hence losses.
According to him, most farmers lack knowledge on crop processing, hence they leave a big chunk of the harvest unprocessed which ends up in rotting.
Poor infrastructure, he said, has also led to delays in transportation of crops from farms to the markets.
Mkopi said that lack of capital was another hindrance to preservation, leading to huge post harvest losses.
“The government and the private sector should increase lending to the agricultural sector to enable the farmers purchase modern equipment for farming and food processing and preservation,” he noted.
Tanzania produces over 1.2 million tonnes of various fruits but between 40 to 60 percent is lost due to diseases and decay in farms because of lack of facilities to process them. Currently Middle East, Australia, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Europe and Asia, are major importers of mangoes from Tanzania.
“We believe that the initiatives established by SIDO towards introduction of this training will enable the sector to minimise the post harvest losses,” he said.
Tanzania currently producers more than 372,000 tonnes of mango but only exports 2 percent of the processed crop (mostly grown by Amagro farmers), and the rest is sold in the domestic market.
For her part, Sofia Ndunguru, a mango farmer, appealed to SIDO to avail packaging materials for magoes products for the same to safely reach the market.
She said lack of packaging materials is one of the challenges they face in the marketing mangoes.
“This is a serious problem, there is a shortage of packaging materials. There is a need to have more manufacturing firms of the materials as well as importers,” she said.
SIDO Director General Mike Laizer urged the trained processors to train other mango producers so as to create multiplier effect in the sector.
“You have to be good ambassadors, educate your friends who did not get a chance to attend the training so that we reduce the amount of crops lost,” he said.
Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Said Meck Sadik who was the chief guest said time has come for the government to start issuing seed and fertiliser subsidy to mango growers.
“If the government wants to develop this industry it should start supporting mango farmers as it is doing in cotton and cashewnut farming,” he stressed.
He said that Dar es Salaam Region is ready to allocate land for construction of a mango processing plant.
AMAGRO was established in 2001 and has over 110 members who are growers of high quality commercial mangoes in Tanzania.