Tanzania’s Sh537 billion ($240 million) pigeon pea industry is on a sharp nosedive after India banned import of the legumes from Tanzania in August last year.
The unanticipated restriction is now wreaking havoc on hundreds of pigeon pea farmers and traders across the country who are holding hundreds of tonnes of the legume for lack of market.
Reasons behind the ban have not been clear, but some reports have attributed the restriction to over-production of the legumes in India in the last two years.
The price of pigeon pea which remained stable at between Sh1,500 and Sh4,000 in the last four seasons has drastically dropped to Sh200 as the result.
India’s ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a Trade Notice No 13 (2015-2020) restricting imports of commodity from countries with no bilateral agreement on the crop with the South Asian nation.
The Indian notice caught farmers and traders unprepared as it came at the peak season for the crop, meaning farmers are currently facing significant losses from their investments and the government is now losing a lot in export revenue.
Local authorities in regions known for large scale cultivation of the crop are blaming sharp fall of revenue on the import restriction.
The move is also reported to have put local banks which have provided loans to pigeon pea farmers in difficult time as the lenders fail to furnish their debts.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that about 300,000 households are involved in pigeon pea farming.The heavily criticised ban came despite the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two countries in 2000 under which Tanzania would grow the grains for the Indian market. India is the main export destination for Tanzania pigeon peas and other pulses.”The shutting out of Tanzania means the farmers are missing cash they have enjoyed for the last 50 years. It has also given advantage to the country’s competitors,” said Mr Daniel Charles, the CEO of the Arusha-based Kilimo Markets Limited.