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Tarime farmers say 'enough is enough' to crop buyers from Kenya

MZEE Isaac Nyangi (65) from Tarime District in Mara Region came to Dar es Salaam recently to enquire with the Ministry of East African Cooperation the procedures of exporting farm produces to Kenya after decades of exploitation by buyers from the neighboring country.

Nyangi who represents members of NEHO association of elder farmers above 60 years, says enough is enough after discovering that a bag of sweet potatoes, which they have been selling for Tsh. 40,000 per 100 kilos bag at farm get price, it actually fetches Tsh. 160,000 in Kenya.

“We have been exploited for so long by smugglers from Kenya now we want to know what procedures are so that we can export ourselves to Kenya,” says Mzee Nyangi who is a retired Aviation Security Officer and a leader of NEHO.

He says his association has decided to come clean after many years of selling crops to buyers who have been using informal routes to cross the borders in order to smuggle goods to the neighboring East African Community’s (EAC) partner country.

Since April this year NEHO Association embarked on productions of sweet potatoes after they failed to excel in production of Maize and Paprica due to crop diseases.

“We expect to harvest 300 bags this year and sell it to Kenya. We are even targeting UN refugee camps in Kenya but we cannot succeed unless we formalize our way of doing trade,” says Nyangi who used members’ donations to get fare for Dar es Salaam visit.

According to Mzee Nyangi, many farmers are afraid to cross formal border of Sirari because of bureaucracy at border and ignorance of procedures.

During 2 hours discussions with Ministry Staff, Nyangi ended up with a huge smile and became more optimistic about their trade because he was taken through all the procedures for exporting or importing in the EAC region.

He was also given various Swahili publications written in a simplified way so that he can share with colleagues when he goes back to Tarime. He was commended for the initiative and encouraged to motivate others to cross the Sirari border themselves in order to fetch better prices.

In addition Mr Nyangi was given a hotline number which he could use to report any barrier they will encounter via short message services (SMS) by writing word NTB (space) problem send to 15539. The NTBs SMS and Online Reporting and Monitoring system is hosted at Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA).The system supported by Trade mark East Africa (TMEA) has been able to capture several NTBs some of which are resolved and some are at different levels of discussion for resolution.

According to EAC agreed import/export procedures, traders are required to fill in a Certificate of Origin which authenticates the origin of goods. For traders with goods valued at $2000 and below they can obtain the simplified certificates at the borders.

Traders with goods valued above $2000 they need to use Clearing and Forwarding agents to fill the certificates of origin which can be obtained at Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture’s (TCCIA) offices across the country. TCCIA has recently introduced an Electronic certificate of Origin through which exporters can apply the Certificate of origin Online and therefore reducing the cost of doing business.  The system can be accessed via the following web link; http://www.tccia.com/eco/.

The cost of obtaining certificate of origin for goods destined to EAC member states is just Tsh. 5,000 and goods are not subjected to import as long as they are accompanied with the certificate that proves the goods are originating from Tanzania.

During his visit to Dar es Salaam Mr. Nyangi used the opportunity to enquire the prices for sweet potatoes and he found out that a bag of 100 kilos was sold at 80,000, twice as much of the Tarime price.

He said it did not make business sense for them to bring their crops to Dar es Salaam because of the distance compared to Nairobi.

According to social economic data for Tarime, agriculture represents 85% of economic activities and annually the district harvests 14,539 tons of sweet potatoes.

Other popular crops  harvested include 43,151 tons of maize, 2,882 tons of beans, 12,169 tons of bananas, 5,076 tons of sorghum, 8,815 tons of rice, , 33,809 tons of cassava and 2730 tons  and coffee. Most of these crops are sold to neighboring Kenya.

Mzee Nyangi’s story is familiar in many parts of Tanzania especially in the border communities where by buyers from neighboring countries buy crops at cheaper prices and others go as far as buying crops while still in farm leaving farmers in a vicious cycle of poverty.

However, the construction of One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) in all Tanzania major borders is likely to reduce bureaucratic procedures, corruption and cut cost for traders. This in turn will encourage more farmers such as Mzee Nyangi to use formal borders instead of the so called Panya routes.

Written by Faraja Mgwabati