IRISH potato growers in Njombe Region, Tanzania renewed their call on government to force potato buyers to use scales instead of over packed sacks known as ‘lumbesa’.
The lumbesa business was banned by the government couple of years ago as it was estimated that five lumbesa sacks are equivalent to seven normal sacks.
Speaking at a two-day Ihemi Cluster Evaluation Meeting, Mtwango village potato grower, Mr Chesco Ng’eve, said the ‘lumbesa’ problem has defied solution, and called for joint grower-government front to end the evil business practice. “Potato production has increased and so has the evil practice entrenched itself,” Mr Ng’eve said at the sideline of the meeting yesterday.
He added: “there is urgent pressing need for growers to unite and resist pressure, decoy, tricks and baits from traders who prefer sacks to scales in order to avoid buying potatoes on kilogrammes.”
He described such traders milk dry peasants without regarding their costs incurred during farming. In order to get capital, he said, peasants borrow money to buy improved potato seed and a whole range of inputs “and yet these traders want to exploit us.”
Calling also for some intervention from authorities, he said, a single lumbesa could be one and a quarter sacks, adding that the peasant’s profit is pocketed by the trader who sells potatoes in kilos. “We ask to be listened to,” Mr Ng’eve pleaded.
Another potatoes grower from Nyombo villager, Ms Augusta Madembwe, price of potatoes dropped to 40,000/- from 60,000/- in previous season. “We have bumper harvests without buyers,” she complained.
The Chairperson of the Tanzania Tea Board, Ms Anna Makinda, agreed that lumbesa problem still exists but supported the call on peasants to have a united front to stand up for their rights. “If traders bought on kilos they would still make money.
They only chose lumbesa since they earn more money,” Ms Makinda said. Iringa Regional Commissioner (RC) Amina Masenza, said the government has done its part and its imperative important for peasants to form groups so they speak in one voice.
The meeting was organized by SAGCOT founders—the government of Tanzania, UK Aid, the Norwegian Embassy, the World Bank Group, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and AGRA.