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Tanzania: Failure to tap AGOA market irks ministers

Tanzania: Failure to tap AGOA market irks ministers
Minister for East African Cooperation, Dr Harisson Mwakyembe
Published date:
Sunday, 10 May 2015

Failure by Tanzania’s producers and exporters to take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has prompted reaction and the appeal for collective national response strategies to reverse the trend.

Tanzania’s trading in the preferential zone has been dropping drastically over the years from 18.8 per cent in 2000 to 4.1 per cent in 2015.

Unveiling statistics during an audience with local producers, exporters’ representatives from financial institutions among others in Dar es Salaam recently, both the Minister for East Africa Cooperation, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe and the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industries, Mrs Janeth Mbene, said the drift was unacceptable and the government was ready to play its active role to redress the situation.

“This (AGOA) is a preferential trade that allows access of duty free products from Africa to the US markets. Tanzania has not made the best of it over the last 15 years.

Towards the end of last year, being the chairman of the East Africa Council of Ministers, I led a delegation to the United States to negotiate over possible extension of AGOA lifespan.

I really felt bad knowing that my country’s contribution was declining. We need to devise strategies, contribute more to this market and make a difference,” Dr Mwakyembe said.

Giving details on Tanzania’s penetration to the market, the minister said in 2000 it was at 18.8 per cent, in 2005 it dropped to 8.13 per cent and in 2015 further dropped to 4.1 per cent.

On the other hand, Kenya’s contribution to AGOA market, Dr Mwakyembe observed was 56.45 in 2000 and increased to 83.5 in 2005 and today 95.39 per cent.

“This is how we all ought to register progressive achievements. We (government) will mobilise the available resources to reverse the unimpressive trend,” he noted.

Mrs Mbene opened the floor for discussion and expressed doubt on the degree of understanding among producers of the available product (6,400) export opportunities to USA and China.

“The time has come for deliberate awareness campaign to help Tanzanians build confidence and clear knowledge on utilisation of the markets under AGOA initiative.

The accessibility to the market depends on the quality of products and deliberate measures must be taken to attain this goal.

Kenyans are doing well because they add value to their products some of which come from Tanzania,” Mrs Mbene said. Local farmers who operate in isolation, Mrs Mbene said, lack voice on the corresponding prices of their products like onions, among others.

“Traders from a neighbouring country would insist ‘ongesa lombesa’ (add more produce) and eventually end up collecting twice the volume of crops paid for. This is not proper.

Serious farmers’ organisations must be in place to facilitate operation and dissemination ofinformation,” she observed. She gave an example of missed chances due to lack of information, mentioning Dubai and other Asian countries in great need of varieties of crops like pepper, sweet potatoes, cassava, ginger and vegetables, among others.

Mr Jocobed Malisa from the Prime Minister’s Office commended the ministers for bringing up the matter at an opportune time, adding that the nation needs to identify specific varieties of crops for massive production of high-quality products for both local consumption and export.

Mr Hamadi Mkopi who is a mango farmer and exporter requested intervention by the government to help secure a site for construction of a park house and crop collection centres.

Ms Grace Lemunge from EPZ volunteered to assist on the establishment of park house and shared valid information of crop export procedures.

In the recent past, the US passed a Bill to support the US-Africa Partnership through the AGOA Extension and Enhancement Act of 2015.

Last week, the Congress introduced several bills that are important to the economic future and national security interests of the United States.

Central among them is a 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, legislation that has served as the cornerstone of the US-African economic relationship and has dramatically expanded US trade with Africa over the past 15 years.

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