Agro-industrialisation in SADC zone:Lessons from honey economics in Tz

10Aug 2019
Michael Eneza
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Agro-industrialisation in SADC zone:Lessons from honey economics in Tz

ON the basis of comparable landscapes between a number of SADC countries while they are not entirely identical, as small enclave states like Lesotho and Eswatini are more comparable to Rwanda and Burundi with densely populated highland zones a remarkable characteristic, -

 

-those with wider plains and forests have a few things in common. 

It is the presence of vast unutilized land which is more remarkable for the contests surrounding it than for the potential capital that is likely to be invested in the next two decades or so on the basis of current economic structures. Industrialisation needs that such bottlenecks are sorted out.

An item in this newspaper at the start of the SADC Industrial Week and Exhibition, which coincides with the national agricultural how often known as NaneNane as it falls on the8th of August was an illustration both of these aspirations and difficulties of their realization.

It was lucidly presented under the tempting title of ‘Forgotten honey money: Why billions lie in forests’ in the sense that were local forests to be used as per technical requirements, the country would reap billions in honey exports, etc. This looks altogether valid at first glance until one brings economic history into account, mechanisms of competition and so on.

It said that “young Tanzanians engaged in beekeeping and honey processing have appealed to the private sector and the government to increase investments in the sub-sector to enable them harness billions of shillings in annual revenues that are currently wasted due to inferior practices.” It means that if such a flow of cash is assured then the potential in the forests is to be realized, and for some reason or other, that is, on the basis of the current policy standpoint, those who stand to make such operation are the ‘youth.’ What it means is that either they receive direct funding from the government, or a benevolent NGO, etc.

The idea that millions of shillings or even billions lie in wait for energy to be brought together so that it is harnessed is true in the sense of the physical potential, but economic activity is not a situation where there is physical potential for producing say cotton – or in this case honey – and once we know it, we do it.

It is a faulty trajectory that the youths and the wider policy advisory environment appear to be taking into their perspective, that this potential is known and public or private sector agencies are equally relevant to bring that into realization. It is hard to see how a specific dynamic arises from that kind of mixture of roles, etc.

For the forests to be turned into cash spinners, all what is required are investments ranging from training of farmers to supply of modern equipment as well as processing methods.

Now there comes the clincher, as to who actually supplies equipment and processing facilities, also capable of assuring the quality levels that are demanded especially in export markets.

When the focus is directed at training farmers that is a rather simple role as many extension officers are within regions or districts, the problem being the little funds required for upkeep especially for farmers or youths who have to leave their places of sanctuary and camp somewhere for two or three days to learn basics of honey value chains. It can be done, all the same.

There was a reference to remarks by Prof. Dos Santos Silayo, the chief executive officer of the Tanzania Forest Service (TFS) who said that Tanzania has the potential to produce over 100,000 tonnes of honey per year but currently produces slightly over 50,000 tonnes.

The real potential is higher if the forest cover is used intensively but possibly the CEO offered a more restrained projection considering available means, by current capacities like financing. Do we use 50 per cent of honey making capacity already?

A Singida-based farmer and processor said for the potential to be unlocked, what is needed is not change but transformation, underlining that it should start with introduction of modern beehives, packaging, harvesting, processing as well as transportation.

When all that is work to be done is it likely that were it to be completed to capacity, that is, on the basis of each region’s physical potential, shall the result be just a doubling of the honey output or perhaps the don’s estimation was slightly on the lower side? But what all the same is the likelihood of scaling these impediments and realize the potential, evading us many years?

A group formed last February contracted 30 farmers to supply honey for processing but so far only one with the capacity of 200 gallons per season has managed to meet the quality threshold.

That situation shows that gaps still remain or are broadly expressed but there is progress towards realizing quality standards that would make the product marketable locally and definitely overseas.

The group is also obtaining orders from foreign markets but those interviewed admit they have problems accepting and processing such orders, as they lack the quality honey supply base and facilities for rapid processing.

The group is a beneficiary of the ‘Support sustainable value chain development for job creation, food and nutrition security in Tanzania,’ a project supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) whose implementation began in 2016.

Reports say it offers selected youth training in modern agricultural practices with focus on horticulture, beekeeping and honey processing as well as small livestock rearing like poultry.

Still stakeholders admit that quality issues led to the past closure of  Mlandizi-based Honey King processing factory set up by Chinese investors, operating for only two years.