The government yesterday said that it would continue supporting contract farming in areas producing cotton because the new system of farming has proved successful and beneficial to farmers.
Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Prof Jumanne Maghembe sounded the promise in Dar es Salaam when addressing an agricultural stakeholders’ meeting.
He said that contract farming has increased yields by 45 per cent due to availability of inputs. However, he said that more investments were needed in contract farming to keep going.
Maghembe said the mode of large scale farming was the only viable vehicle to put Tanzania’s cotton production at the top of the ladder in international markets.
“The remarkable output of cotton this year, the highest record ever, is due to availability of inputs on credit for farmers under contract farming, which has greatly improved the yields,” he said, adding: “Results gained in few years of implementation of contract framing have been remarkable, they speak for themselves. Many farmers are happy,” he said.
In order for contract farming to be successful, the Minister stressed, some important rules must be followed. He said the government was committed to providing an enabling policy environment for the cotton sector to grow and prosper, pledging to honor its commitment to farmers and investors.
“Those ginners that have not met the conditions set by the government, and have not made investments in the sector by May 15 will not be given licenses,” he stressed, amid applause from stakeholders present. Prof Maghembe agreed that some non-investing ginners were against contract farming, but added that it was important for all serious ginners to come on board.
Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) director-general Marco Mtunga said that contract farming was the solution to problems related to cotton cultivation in the country.
He said although farmers have power to control cotton prices, through contract farming yields could be increased through input support and extension services by ginners.
“There is improved quality and increased transparency at buying posts. Growers are empowered to manage their own affairs and there is increased level of mechanisation under contract farming,” he explained.
The DG said a cross section of ginners, who don’t want to invest in contract farming, but just do free for all buying are very much against contract farming. He said 18 companies were busy campaigning for the status quo. “The group has been sabotaging the process from the beginning,” he said.
Mtunga revealed facts which made it clear that contract farming is very beneficial to farmers. In its implementation this season, about 62 per cent of estimated 500,000 growers have signed contracts with ginners through 5,565 farmer business groups (with estimated 311,000 growers) who have all received inputs on credit.
He said about 17 companies, which process 80 per cent of all cotton produced in the country have already invested by paying the input advance, and that the sector now is just waiting for strong support from the government to take another progressive step.
Mtunga said if contract farming was abandoned, Tanzania should forget about the revival of the industry.
Bunda district commissioner Francis Mtinga said that contract farming has changed the lives of many people in his district, as majority of them depend on cotton.
He said through the new system of farming, villagers were assured of getting inputs which result into improved yields.