Tanzania on Brink of Loosing EU Market for Horticultural Produces

Arusha --- Fear has gripped Tanzania horticultural farmers and exporters over risk of losing the lucrative European Union market, if they do not conform to its new safety standards.

Horticulture as a non-traditional export for Tanzania has not only become a growth driver of stagnant agriculture and foreign currency earner, bringing home $546 million in 2015, but also brought hope to the lives of many as a source of jobs.

The EU has warned all countries to ensure all fresh produce meant for its market is free of harmful pesticides and meets the ‘required minimum residual levels’.

 For instance, the EU market now requires that horticultural produce should not, among other recommended chemicals, contain more than two percent of herbicide sprayed on the crop.

But, local farmers say most of the recommended chemicals are not available in Tanzania and their costly registration process takes many years, thanks to bureaucratic procedures.

 Some of the export commodities on the list of rejection include avocado, flowers and vegetables.

“Most of EU market recommended pesticides are not available in Tanzania and their registration takes four years due to bureaucratic procedures” explains, Mr James Parsons, director of Africado, a Tanzania’s leading avocado grower and exporter.

Mr Parsons cited pyrethroids as among unregistered chemicals in Tanzania, despite the fact that have been found to pose very little risk to human health and the environment.

Inflexible and undynamic pesticides registration process doesn’t cater for changes in the industry, he says, adding that whenever a registered chemical is phased out by the market, Tanzania’s farmers are often left without a replacement.

 “This discourages new crops – for example nothing registered for avocado crop” Mr Parsons explains, stressing that the country’s exporters need an up to date modern chemicals and a dynamic system to keep up with a changing world where science is constantly bringing new technology.

Indeed, the 1997 Plant Protection Act and its 1999 Regulations guide importation, supply and use of pesticides, including requiring the inputs to be registered before they are imported or used in the country.

A pesticide registration is done to ensure the product is safe and effective to use, given the importing country’s own agriclimatic conditions with suitability trials typically requiring three crop cycles before a new pesticide can be approved.

However, the pesticide registration process abounds with trade barriers, inhibiting farmers’ access to improved agrochemicals, as inputs dealers do not only consider it costly for them to afford, but also cumbersome and tedious to adhere to.

 The law requires every pesticides importer to pay a cess fee equivalent to 0.5 per cent FOB (Freight on Board) value of the pesticide to be imported, $150 analytical fee per every sample collected, and a pre-business license fee of $150 per year.

In addition, he is required to pay $50 as an application fee, $1,000 as experimental registration fee (payable once), and between $2,000 and $6,000 field test fee to cover field expenses -- the amount depends on the nature and extent of the field tests to be done.

Then he is required to pay $1,000 for a five-year renewable full registration fee, or $1,500 for a renewable two-year provisional registration fee, or $1,000 for a renewable two-year restricted registration fee.

Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), deputy CEO, Mr. Anthony Chamanga saysthere are several pieces of legislation governing pesticides management including the Plant Protection Act, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute Act and Plant Protect Regulations (dealing with pesticides for crops) as well as Animal Diseases Act (for animal pesticides).

 “The multiplicity of legislation implies conflicting decision. It is high time there’s a single legislation dealing with all pesticide” Mr Chamanga suggests.

It is understood, there are multiple institutions dealing with pesticide management without any proper coordination.

As a result, the multiplicity of the institutions causes overlaps, duplication of mandates and possible delays in decisions making. 

 It is recommended that the primary responsible authority for pesticide management should be specifically identified in the law.

Again, the Plant Protection Regulations requires every pesticide submitted for registration to undergo laboratory test for period of not more than 14 days and field test for not be less than three cropping seasons.

However, farmers say the time consumed for field tests is unnecessarily long even for the pesticides that have been in use in the neighbouring countries after being tested in the same agro-ecological zones.

According to TAHA CEO, Ms Jacqueline Mkindi, her association through financial support from the BEST Dialogue, has concluded a comprehensive study over the pesticides registration, a key document needed to enable them engage the government with evidence.

"We are  currently engaging the government and God willing we will be able to come up with lasting solution before it is too late" Ms Mkindi explains.

Tanzania Pesticides Registrar, Dr Elikana Lekei says that the partner states of East African community are in process to harmonize the chemicals registrations and once is done will ease chemical accessibility.

“We are harmonizing our registration procedures and responsible agencies within EAC countries so that pesticides which are already registered in one country can be allowed to be used across the region without being required to undergo trials for three cropping seasons” Dr Lekei explains.

Much as horticulture needs large amount of pesticides and other agrochemicals to manage pests and ensure high quality products, such multiple compliance and registration fees have a negative bearing on competitiveness of the inputs trade.

From a value chain perspective, every cost that occurs during the production and marketing of a horticultural commodity also robs of profit farmers and all others involved in the production and delivery to its terminal market.

John Keyser, an independent consultant based in Lusaka, Zambia, highlights in findings of his research that savings in trade costs not only have the potential for benefiting farmers through lower input prices, but can also have leveraged impact on agricultural competitiveness through increased yields.

Multiple legislations and institutions dealing with pesticides management and lack of compliance of the same to international and regional instruments inhibit inputs trade competitiveness, deny farmers of access to agrochemicals, and hinder productivity in horticultural sub-sector and the agricultural sector at large.  



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