Africa's agriculture and value addition magazine

Interview of Ms Jacqueline Mkindi, CEO Tanzania Horticultural Association, TAHA

 

INTRO: In this interview conduscted in May 2015, the CEO of TAHA, the trade association that represents those involved in the horticulture industry in Tanzania, enumerates the milestone the association has gone through as it celebrated 10 years. She also explains why investing in Tanzania's orticulture is such a worthy investment.

 

Q: We note that TAHA is celebrating 10 years of existence. How does this feel for you as the CEO of this organization?

It is a very special feeling especially when I look and recall where we were in 2004 when TAHA started. 10 years back when we started, the organization and the horticultural industry as whole were nowhere in the map! Horticulture during those days was a topic of no interest to most of the people in this country. The industry was very small, and general awareness of its potential and opportunities was very limited to Tanzanians and the world.

From staff size of 2 in 2004, today we are more than 60. In addition, with just 15 members in 2004, today the Association has over 15,000 members across the country. Again, TAHA started its operations only in Arusha, but it now has physical presence in over 15 regions in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar

Q: How was the industry then? How has the industry changed since TAHA came into being?

Before TAHA, horticulture was nowhere in the development map of Tanzania. At that time, when one mentioned horticulture the first image in people’s minds was flowers/floriculture featuring the large foreign investors hence it was not given any importance as far as the national development agenda was concerned.

Today, 10 years later, horticulture is at the centre of attention in the national development agenda. Horticulture is the accelerator of the country’s agricultural growth, recording an average growth rate of 11 per cent per annum for the past five years, compared with general agricultural growth rate of 4% per annum.

In summary, the achievements realized during ten years of TAHA existence include:

  • The industry has been growing at an average annual growth of 11% for the past five years.
  • The industry has witnessed increased partnerships among stakeholders in support to horticulture industry in the past decade.
  • Improved business enabling environment through collaboration efforts between TAHA and the Government
  • Significant increase in production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices and seed, which have increased by more than 75% since 2006.
  • Increased horticultural yields as a result of development interventions on the ground and development partners’ efforts.
  • Increased values of export from US$ 64 million in 2004 to US$ 450 million in 2014. In 2014, horticulture sub-sector contributed about 38% of overall agricultural exports in the country.
  • Increase involvement of small-scale farmers in horticultural value chain activities. Outgrowers, who are contracted by exporters, contribute up to 90% of the total horticultural export volumes.
  • Increased market access to Tanzanian products in domestic, regional and international levels.
  • Improved institutional strength of TAHA and its business wings i.e. TAHAFRESH Handling limited, and industry logistic company.

Q: With growth rates of over 10 per cent recorded by the industry in the last six years, how has TAHA contributed to this aggressive growth?

Along with promoting the sector we have been working very closely with value chain actors. Below are the key points as to why TAHA has contributed massively in triggering horticultural growth:

  • TAHA has carried out promotional activities to attract new markets and partners to support horticulture
  • TAHA has a strong technical team to service farmers and build their technical/production capacities in production and processing of horticultural products
  • TAHA has coordinated horticultural standards development and also worked with farmers to meet international standards such as Global GAP adherence.
  • TAHA has mobilized and built institutional capacity of farmers to produce and supply produce to various markets. It has has therefore managed to transform masses of farmers from local conversional farming to improved technologies which as a result increase production and later contribute to the growth of the industry.
  • TAHA has engaged with the government to ensure productive and constructive Public and Private Dialogue for improved business enabling environment through policy reforms and infrastructure development in rural areas.
  • TAHA has developed effective marketing and information services to guide farmers on how to access local, regional and international markets.
  • TAHA has provided logistics support services to the sector through TAHA’s logistic company; TAHAFRESH Handling limited.

Q: Which organisations have you partnered with in your work to grow the industry?

TAHA has been able to mobilize strong commitment and support from Development partners (USAID, Finnish Government, the Dutch Government, International Trade Centre, BEST-Dialogue, etc.) and private sector partners who have made significant investment in addressing farmers challenges including technical know and support infrastructures (such as irrigation and market infrastructures).

Q: Which variety of horticultural produce has especially done well? And which ones do you foresee doing well as we go into the next decade?

In the past, numerous crops performed well. They were fully accessible to all farmers and the yields were also good. We have also witnessed introduction of improved/hybrid varieties which have very high yields. The hybrids are resilient to many climatic challenges such as low rains/water as well as pests and diseases. They also provide more yield in many cases.

Crops which perfomed better include tomato, avocado, french beans, various types of flowers including roses, green pepper, irish potato, onions, carrots, water melon etc. Crops which we foresee to do well in the next decade include pineapple (MD2 variety), red and yellow capsicums, berries (raspberry and strawberries), snow peas, mangoes, apples, and table grapes.

Q: What sets Tanzania apart in the field of horticulture in the region? What is the country’s key differentiator in the region?

Land    availability,     wide    range  of        climatic           conditions (from temperate to tropical) supporting production of a variety of horticultural crops, access to markets through preferential and other regional/multilateral schemes and peace and stability of the country are among the factors that make Tanzania apart in the field of horticulture in the region

Varying altitudes – from sea level to over 2,000m of above, low humidity and average rainfall greater than 700mm make production of crops such        as       flowers,          cuttings, vegetable/ flower     seeds, avocados,       strawberries, raspberries and spices (cardamom) possible especially in the Southern Highlands the SAGCOT area and the northern zone.

Strategic positioning of the     country - Good links to ports and airports: Dar and Tanga ports, Julius Nyerere International Airport in DSM, Songwe International Airport in Mbeya, KIA and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport provides guarantee for sea freighting and airlifting of horticultural products destined for international markets.

Political stability and government will - This is very instrumental in attracting and nurturing investments in the country.

Q: Challenges abound in Africa’s farming. What do you think are the key challenges that face Tanzania’s horticulture industry?

Despite the commitment of the Government in creating enabling business environment to the sector, the sector is still faced with a number of challenges:

  • Overregulation associated with multiplicity of taxes, fees, charges and levies’. As a result, the agricultural businesses incur higher compliance costs (in terms of time and financial resources) as s/he has to deal with different Authorities.
  • Significant post-harvest losses by up to 60% of the total crop
  • Lack of inadequate support infrastructures such as cold storage facilities
  • Most of farmers lack knowledge on horticultural technologies and good agricultural practices making them unable to achieve the optimal yields.
  • Poor marketing system characterized by market inefficiencies and information asymmetry

Q: How do you think some of these challenges can be sorted out? Are there some policy issues you think Government can rectify?

Streamlining the operationalization of taxes, fees and levies - More support from the government is needed particularly in harmonizing policies, taxes, levies and facilitating trade.

To unify payment systems and make them available online for agricultural businesses to access and manage their statutory payments

Q: Why should an investor consider Tanzania as a horticulture industry investment destination?

Peace and political stability - Tanzania is one of the most peaceful and politically stable countries in Africa. Since its independence in 1961, the country has never experienced a civil war or any major internal strife.

Strategic Location - The country is connected directly to the Indian Ocean giving it trade links to Asia and Europe and sits in between the ocean and 6 landlocked countries (Uganda, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi) that rely on Tanzania for passage of goods.

The country has 3 deep water ports (Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Mtwara) that are servicing the neighboring countries. Furthermore, its membership to the SADC Free Trade Area and EAC Common Market, with developed road networks, makes Tanzania a natural transportation gateway for East and Central Africa.

Government commitment to transform horticultureThe Government has made changes to a number of policies to favor and attract horticultural investment into the country. The government has also established specialized incentive schemes namely Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as well as Tanzania Investment Centre. The government also has invested in infrastructure development such as market facilities and irrigation schemes.

Plenty of natural resources to support horticultural production and trade - There are a number of natural factors which support operation of horticultural businesses in Tanzania. They include rivers and water springs, which offer resources for irrigated horticulture and help farmers to meet the high water requirements for horticulture; varying climatic conditions to support a variety of crops and sea (with ports) to facilitate sea freighting.

TAHA existence and role to coordinate the sector - TAHA, as a private-sector business oriented member-based organization working to promote horticultural industry in Tanzania presents interests of the private sector players and the industry as whole and works with the government to improve business enabling environment in the country.

TAHA also facilitates smooth operation of the businesses, by, through its logistics arm, TAHAFresh Handling Ltd. by providing logistics services including perishable handling and transportation.