Tanzania's cashew nut traders are staring at huge losses as authorities moved to confiscate the produce of those who do not show proof that they are farmers.
Some traders-cum-farmers and middlemen who for years were used to buy the crop from growers even before harvests are made were in for a rude shock since the government launched the verification.
Reports from Mtwara and Lindi regions indicate that harvests confiscated in the exercise could total into hundreds of tonnes, translating into billions of Tanzanian shillings across the region.
There are fears that the lost amount will bankrupt some of the traders and is likely to disrupt next year’s season as those affected usually played a key role bankrolling farmers to prepare farms and purchase inputs, among other needs.
Cooperative unions and local farmer associations have already issued alerts that they will be left saddled with huge debts following the decision to directly pay farmers who owe the institutions millions of shillings.
As the verification continues, it was becoming apparent that most of the cashews in the warehouses did not belong to farmers who had already sold them to the traders at lower prices than currently being offered by the government.
On Monday, Mtwara Regional Commissioner Geldius Bykanywa confirmed that they were only paying farmers after verifying the size of their farms.
“We normally assess the amount supposed to be paid to the farmer in relation to the size of their farms,” he told reporters.
He added: “If we find out that there is a discrepancy, we cancel the payment.”
Bykanywa said farmers were at the mercy of these individuals who have usually provided them with loans which they were supposed to repay using their harvests.
“The traders take advantage to negotiate with the vulnerable growers who cannot afford to buy agricultural inputs, in which the growers are conditioned to equally share the sales,” the RC said,
He added that there is also the tendency of people visiting farmers to buy the crop ahead of the marketing.
The RC said unfaithful executives of cooperative unions were also lining up to benefit through payments to “ghost farmers.”
At least 150 tonnes of cashews from Ruvuma Region were received Monday in Mtwara for warehousing.
Byakanwa said 150 tonnes of cashews had earlier been received from Tunduru District. He said local loaders continue to work for a living under the supervision of soldiers.
Meanwhile, independent analysts have expressed mixed views, largely welcoming moves to protect farmers.
Zanzibar University Senior Lecturer Haji Semboja said farmers should be empowered to grow the crop again next season.
The former chairman of the CEO Roundtable Ali Mufuruki said government intervention has been taken in the past only that people’s interest has been aroused this year.
Tanzania Private Sector Foundation Chairman Salum Shamte said they were yet to assess the impact of what is taking place but hoped that all goes well.