It’s all cheers as government rescues  farmers with fertiliser subsidy

It’s all cheers as government rescues farmers with fertiliser subsidy

THE next phase of Tanzania’s agricultural revolution cannot be far away as the government is currently working with various partners within and outside the country to improve livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, increase employment and preserve natural resource integrity.

The aim of this collaborative work is to address the challenge of shrinking agricultural land and an increasing population to feed without adverse effects on the environment.

Reduced poverty and increased food security and employment for small-scale farmers, has been the priority of the government since Tanzania won self-rule in 1961.

Farm productivity from many small-scale farmers has been low due to inappropriate technologies which have contributed to poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, food insecurity and inefficient use of scarce resources.

It is against this background that the technology being used to cultivate staple grains calls for a complex of inputs to achieve large yield increases.

Agriculture’s capital needs rise with the need for fertiliser; pesticides, irrigation facilities; energy; marketing, storage and transportation infrastructure. After decades of practising subsistence farming, Tanzanian farmers are now in the forefront of the drive to restructure the economy along more self-reliant lines.

Their efforts have been greatly reinforced by different policies in the past 60 years of independence, which have succeeded in re-establishing agriculture as a central economic force in the society.

The widespread use of fertilizers has made more food accessible and available in every corner of the country more than ever before. Yet the country’s food security remains a top agenda, and with the population projected to reach 77.5 million by 2030, encouragement of innovation in agriculture and education about farming techniques are crucial for the future of nutrition. Fertilizers have helped modernize Tanzania’s agriculture as the key economic driver.

The use of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash as the vitamins of life for plants has improved farmers’ yields. In the push to ensure that agriculture remains the mainstay of the national economy, the government has realised that as land becomes heavily populated, technical change must be of the type that raises yield per hectare.

Technical progress that is not highly capital-intensive is needed to allow the limited capital available to support widespread agricultural transformation and industrialisation.

It is in that perspective that the government has in the 2022- 2023 farming season devised a strategy of subsidizing fertiliser prices to enable the majority small-scale farmers countrywide increase production, to curb the skyrocketing prices of the commodity, to ensure food security and to increase the availability of raw materials for domestic industries.

In this endeavour, the government has set aside 150bn/- in the national budget to meet the needs of farmers in the 2022- 2023 season, who are required to undergo registration, according to the Tanzania Fertiliser Regulatory Authority (TFRA) Executive Director Dr Stephan Ngailo.

Two types of widely-used fertilisers for planting and growth – DAP and Urea – have been selected for the subsidisation programme while other types would follow depending on the demands of the market, Dr Ngailo explains.

“To ensure the subsidised fertilisers reach the registered farmers, in the 2022-2023 farming season the government will use a digital platform to coordinate all activities involved in the programme to avoid certain malpractices that may hamper its execution,” he says.

Specifically, the digital platform will identify the programme’s participants such as fertiliser importers and manufacturers, traders, farmers and the types of fertilisers included in the subsidy scheme, stock movement, the sale of fertilisers to farmers and payments.

According to Dr Ngailo, companies will import or manufacture fertilisers packaged in 25 to 50 kilogramme bags with the inscription “MBOLEA YA RUZUKU” bearing the QR code issued by TFRA. Figures from TFRA show that Tanzanian farmers use 400,000 to 500,000 metric tons of fertilizer and fertilizer supplements per year.

More than 90 per cent of the fertilizer used in the country is imported. As of May this year, 365,906 metric tons of fertilisers were used during the 2021-2022 farming seasons, 52 per cent less than the estimated annual demand of 698,260 metric tons, based on TFRA records.

Limited fertiliser usage is attributed to farmers’ little knowledge on the importance of the commodity in changing their farming practices, lack of markets for their produce and inflated prices of fertilisers.

Tanzania has a huge market for fertilisers as it is surrounded by land-locked neighbouring countries - Malawi, Zambia, DR Congo, Burundi and Rwanda -- with high fertilizer use.

The country also boasts of a good network of railways, roads and waterways that facilitate the transportation of raw materials and fertilizers to any destination.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has perhaps been the biggest wake-up call in history, threatening both individual lives and entire economic and social systems. It has truly even adversely affected the fertiliser industry globally triggering rising prices.

The effect is also heavily being felt in Tanzania as prices of the commodity continue to go up. This is why the government has come up with the fertiliser subsidy strategy to help the cashstrapped farmers who struggle day and night to modernise their farming practices.

The on-going RussiaUkraine war has also worsened fertiliser prices as both countries are reputed producers and net exporters of the commodity in the world market. The conflict has had telling effects to the smallholder farmers in many countries, including Tanzania, who cannot access the commodity because of high prices.

For Tanzania, as Dr Ngailo says, the inflated fertiliser prices have undermined efforts on food production thereby causing imminent food insecurity. “There’s need of relieving the farmer who is overburdened with increased fertiliser prices.

This is why the government has allocated 150bn/- for that purpose, the aim being to enable farmers increase production, improve food security and the national economy at large,” he told a recent meeting in Dodoma of high-ranking government officials and private sector chief executives engaged in the agricultural sector.

The digital platform will involve local governments in collaboration with CRDB Bank and Vodacom. Under the fertiliser subsidy arrangement, farmers will be given an identification number which will be used when purchasing fertilisers from registered businesspeople.

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