Tanzania: Lack of markets, low prices frustrate soybean farmers

| January 29, 2018

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Elikunda Emmanuel Wanjama is a small-scale farmer who started growing soybeans in 2013 on a half-acre of land. Although the father of four has now expanded to three acres, lack of reliable markets and poor prices in 2017 have decreased his income from the crop.

Mr. Wanjama explains, “The main challenge we are facing … is lack of market for our farm produce. Soybean grain is piled up in our houses. We have not yet found the buyers.”

Mr. Wanjama is a member of the Mikumi soybean farmers’ group. He lives in Lungo village in Morogoro region, about 190 kilometres west of Dar es Salaam, the financial capital of Tanzania.

Mr. Wanjama says the lack of market opportunities appears to have worsened in 2017. Farmers are storing tonnes of soybeans in their compounds and have little idea when or where they will sell their stocks.

He says the challenge is worse because soybeans from Malawi and Zambia sell for less than Tanzanian beans.

Mr. Wanjama explains: “Even the buyers who are coming to buy our soybeans offer us very low prices. [In 2016], we sold one kilogram of soybeans [at] between 1100 and 1200 [Tanzanian shillings], which is roughly half a dollar [US]. But this year, they offer us between 300 and 500 per kilogram [US$0.13 and US$0.22].”

Mr. Wanjama says Mikumi soybean farmers are refusing to sell until prices increase. He adds that some farmers are waiting for Tanfeeds, an animal feed processor and producer of soy cooking oil and other products, because the company promised to buy their soybeans.

Mr. Wanjama explains: “We hear that Tanfeeds was supposed to buy our soybeans, but they haven’t done so. Instead, they have bought only 10 tonnes out of 600 tonnes from Mikumi soybean farmers. Stocks are still in our stores.”

Lucas Joseph is a project manager at Tanfeeds. He says the company planned to borrow money from a bank in order to buy soybeans from the farmers. But Tanfeeds ran into financial difficulty and was unable to get the loan.

Mr. Joseph explains: “… since we missed the bank loan, we now [use] funds from our internal [accounts], and we have now started buying soybeans from Mikumi farmers at a price of 900 [Tanzanian shillings] [US$0.40] per kilogram.”

Mr. Joseph says that, in order to help the farmers get better prices, Tanfeeds will deal directly with the farmers without using middlemen.

Habib Masanja is a project manager at the Women and Poverty Alleviation Organization, or WOPATA. The organization encourages small-scale farmers in Morogoro region to grow more soybeans.

Mr. Masanja says that WOPATA trains farmers, provides quality seeds, and links farmers to buyers. The organization facilitated the agreement between Tanfeeds and the Morogoro farmers. Mr. Masanja adds: “Recently, we have been looking for new soybean buyers in regions like Morogoro, Coast, and Dar es Salaam. The buyers are there. But the prices they offer, according to farmers, only cover the cost of production without [profit].”

He says that buyers offered lower prices after the 2017 harvest, claiming that the Tanzanian soybeans were lower quality than those imported from Malawi and Zambia.

Mr. Masanja adds that, for local farmers to get good prices for soybeans, the country needs to invest in processing machinery to add value to the soybeans. Then, farmers could sell oilseed cake instead of selling raw soybeans at low prices.

Mr. Masanja explains: “One kilogram of oilseed cake, which is processed from soybeans, is currently sold at 1200 [Tanzanian shillings], around half a dollar [US].” He adds that, if Tanzanian farmers sell oilseed cake, they will no longer have to worry about finding buyers for their products.

Mr. Wanjama says that, given the current situation, the government should give subsidies to small-scale soybean farmers and protect them by banning the importation of soybean products.

Photo: Hidya Muhidini Kipila in her soybean field in Mvomero district, Tanzania