NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 – Tanzanian President John Magufuli has ordered the army to buy up the entire country’s crop of cashew nuts after private companies refused to pay the price fixed by his government.
The move comes just days after Magufuli fired Agriculture Minister Charles Tizeba and Trade Minister Charles Mwijage for “failing in their obligations” to the cashew industry.
Magufuli ordered soldiers to buy up the nuts at $1.44 (1.28 euros) per kilogramme, higher than the price companies were willing to pay, according to a government statement issued Monday.
Magufuli ordered in October that the price of cashews be almost doubled from $0.65 per kilogramme, a price farmers said barely covered their production costs.
The president blamed “the procrastination of private operators, who were offering very low prices” for cashews — among the country’s biggest cash crops – for the decision to send in the army.
The state-owned Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank was ordered “to release the necessary funds for the purchase of these cashews, and the army is to deploy to buy the entire production,” the statement said.
Since his election three years ago Magufuli has picked numerous fights with private businesses that he accuses of giving Tanzanians a raw deal.
The state-owned cashew processing plant — where raw nuts are shelled — is also to be taken over by the army.
Magufuli’s government is hoping for a crop of 220,000 tonnes this year.
“We will buy the entire crop, then we will look for buyers and we will eat anything that is not sold,” Magufuli said, according to the statement.