President John Magufuli Saturday sacked the Agriculture and Trade ministers and disbanded the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) as his government grapples with how to safeguard farmers from unsustainably low prices.
The President Saturday also inspected 75 army trucks with a capacity to carry 1,500 tonnes to be deployed to cashewnut growing areas should traders miss a Monday deadline to buy the produce at the government-ordered price of Tsh3,000 ($1.31) per kilogramme.
On Friday, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa issued a four-day ultimatum to traders to declare in writing the amount of cashewnuts they intended to buy this season, or risk their permits being revoked.
In recent board auctions, buyers offered between Tsh1,900 ($0.83) and Tsh2,717 ($1.19) per kg, down from an average of Tsh3,600 ($1.57) last season, which ran between October and September.
The new buying season began this month and CBT had set a minimum price of Tsh1,550 ($0.68) per kg.
Farmers boycotted the regulator's auctions, prompting President Magufuli's intervention last week.
He fired the CBT acting director-general, Wakuru Magigi, and held a meeting in State House with traders where he set the $1.31 price per kg.
In the sackings announced Saturday by the presidential spokesman Gerson Msigwa, Dr Magufuli also revoked the appointment of CBT's chair Anna Abdallah and dissolved the entire board.
The President replaced the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Charles Tizeba with deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Japhet Hasunga.
Industry, Trade and Investment minister, Mr Charles Mwijage, has been replaced by the deputy minister of state in the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr Joseph Kakunda.
“The President has also appointed Mr Constantine Kanyasu to be the new deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism replacing Mr Hasunga. Former deputy minister for Agriculture Dr Mary Mwanjelwa becomes the new deputy minister of state in the President’s Office responsible for Good Governance,” read the statement signed by Mr Msigwa.
Ukonga MP-elect Mwita Waitara will take up Mr Kakunda's post, while Mr Innocent Bushungwa replaces Dr Mwanjelwa.
The new ministers and deputy ministers will be sworn-in on Monday.
According to data from the statistics bureau, cashewnut exports rose to $541.77 million in 2017 from $270.6 million in 2016, surpassing all of Tanzania’s cash crops, including coffee and tobacco.
Data from the bureau showed that cashewnut exports reached 331,100 tonnes in 2017, against 169,200 tonnes in 2016.
The president said this year’s crop is forecast to reach 220,000 tonnes.
Cashewnuts is grown in Mtwara, Ruvuma, Coast and Lindi regions in southern Tanzania.
However, global prices for cashewnuts have dropped by nearly half since March this year.