Interview by Tanzanian Journalist, Peter Keasi. August 2018.
Q.1 You are in the Netherlands; a country we are told is the kingpin of the world’s Irish potato production. Is that a correct description of the Netherlands in world potato production arena? 1.2 For how long have you been in the Netherlands? 1.3 Before going to the Hague, did you represent Tanzania in some other European countries?
Q1.1 - The Netherlands is one of seven European countries that rank among the top ten world’s potato producing countries. Despite the fact that there has been continuous decline in potato production in most of the European countries, The Netherlands continues to use almost 25 percent of its agricultural land for potato production and have managed to reach a world record of more than 45 tons per hectare in yield. The Netherlands leads in sales of approved potato seeds in the world and sales about 1,000,000 Metric tons a year.
Q1.2 - I presented my Letters of Credence to His Majesty, the King of The Netherlands on 7th October 2015, just 7 days after my arrival to The Netherlands. Come 1st October 2018, I will be completing 3 years of my service at the Embassy of Tanzania in The Netherlands.
Q1.3 - I have previously served at the Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for almost 6 years (from 1999 to 2005), but at the level of Senior Foreign Service Officer.
Q.2 We guess you are aware of an agreement for promoting potato production in Tanzania that was signed recently in Mbeya city by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Mathew Mtigumwe and the Dutch Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Jeroen Verheul. What we know here is that the Embassy and you personally, played a central role that culminated in the agreement we are talking about. Can you tell us the role the Mission played?
· Q2. – Yes, I am aware. For more than a year now, the Embassy has been closely following up the implementation of the outcome of Tanzania Agribusiness & Investment Seminar that was held in The Hague on 31st May 2017, which aimed at promoting Trade and Investment opportunities existing in Tanzania relating to Agriculture, Cattle Breeding, Fisheries and Agrilogistics. The Seminar was a step forward towards implementing the Agreement between Tanzania and The Netherlands concerning Dutch Potato Seed Importation that was signed in Arusha on 16th June 2016 when former Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Martijn Van Dam visited Tanzania. The Embassy was represented during this visit. The Minister’s visit was then followed by another visit by the Secretary-General of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs. Marjorlijn Sonnema in March 2017.
The Embassy in conjunction with the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Netherlands-Africa Business Council (NABC), Netherlands Enterprising Agency (RVO.nl) and the Dutch Embassy in Tanzania participated in the preparatory process leading to holding of the Seminar in the Hague.
- Both SG Sonnema and her counterpart Mr. Mtigumwe, attended the Seminar. At the opening, the Embassy reaffirmed the historical relationship existing between Tanzania and The Netherlands, and welcomed the representatives of the Dutch business community to participate in the Seminar and called upon them to invest in Tanzania. Representatives of more than 90 Dutch Private Enterprises participated in the Seminar.
- A day prior to the Seminar, the Embassy led PS Mtigumwe and his delegation to meet Minister Van Dam, and the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to maintain the excellent relations that exist between Tanzania and the Netherlands, particularly in the Agriculture Sector vis-à-vis potato production.
- Among other things, the Seminar ended with signing of a special agreement for establishing a Center for Development of the Potato Industry in Tanzania (CD-PIT). Eight (8) renowned Dutch companies in potato farming vowed to support the initiative by appending their signatures on the special cooperation agreement.
- So, the Embassy took part in the process from the very beginning, and it is gratifying to note that we are now witnessing fruitful results.
- I have personally visited potato plantations and granaries located in the city of Emmerloord (also known as “Potato City”), with experience in high modernized potato farming. Therefore, if we make good use of the existing relationship and partnerships, Tanzania will have a lot to learn and gain from the Netherlands as far as agriculture (and other sectors) is concerned.
Q.3 We are further told that the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot), also played an equally essential role in making this agreement possible. What role did Sagcot play? 3.1 How close is Sagcot to the Embassy?
Q3. - It is absolutely true. As one of the PPP Program overseers, SAGCOT has been in the forefront of drafting agreements, negotiating, participating in signing and subsequently in implementing most agreements reached between the two countries relating to potato farming. SAGCOT has been coordinating different stakeholders' travels from The Netherlands to Tanzania, as well as preparing their meetings and transporting them to the farms to meet with farmers mainly in the three southern regions (Mbeya, Iringa and Njombe).
SAGCOT is therefore highly regarded in The Netherlands due to its focus on its activities and constant promotion of existing investment opportunities via leaflets or flyers sent to the Embassy for distribution to the Dutch community.
Q3.1 – Apart from receiving leaflets and flyers, which advertise SAGCOT, the Executive Director himself has been constantly providing the Embassy with updates on what is going on within the Corridor relating to potato farming.
The Embassy also participated in the “Tanzania Agribusiness Event” organized by SAGCOT in March 2017, where stakeholders including representatives from the Dutch Government as well as Dutch business community used the opportunity to discuss about potato farming and investment opportunities under the agricultural sector. The event brought us closer to the Dutch community thus making our work easier.
Q.4 Can we be told briefly what the agreement is all about?
Q4. - The agreement aims to demonstrate the commitment of the two countries in developing Potato Center in Tanzania, and to nurture the honest and continuous cooperation for our mutual benefits. The partnership was originally demonstrated via the Letter of Intent (LoI) signed on May 31, 2017, and the parties have now progressed by signing this special and important agreement, which is binding upon the two parties.
In addition, by signing the agreement, the parties aim to ensure a competitive potato farming in Southern Tanzania that will eventually create employment (particularly to the youth), increased income for farmers as well as food security for all Tanzanians.
Q.5 During the signing ceremony, it was said four Dutch companies have already been identified to promote agricultural production. Which companies are those? 5.1 Will they concentrate only on potato production?
Q5. – A total of 8 Dutch companies have shown interest in investing in the potato business and will be working hand in hand with CP-PT in Mbeya. They include; Meijer andGrimme (Research & Development); HZPC and Koppert (Potato Growing); Agrico and Groenoord (Harvesting ans Storage); Europlant (Trade and Distribution); and finally Bayer (Processing).
The companies will concentrate on potato production although some have shown interest in engaging in horticultural activities, but this may likely happen in the future.
Q.6 It is said the Dutch have probably more than 53 varieties of Irish potatoes. With Dutch assistance we are told Tanzania has now 11, up from the traditional four varieties. How many varieties will be coming to Tanzania from the Netherlands?
Q6. – Potato production in The Netherlands is highly mechanized and the Dutch have more than 500 approved varieties of Irish potatoes!
The country has already sold to us 7 varieties thus making a total of 11 we so far have, and it aims to sell even more. Every year they come up with new varieties suitable for particular weather condition and world market needs. If more land in East Africa (Tanzania included) is to be put under potato production suitable varieties will very likely be produced, as this is a continuous evolving process.
Q.7 During the signing ceremony Deputy Minister in the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Governments (TAMISEMI) Josephat Kandege, appealed to the Dutch Government to spread this kind of production cooperation to other crops. Have you started working on this government appeal?
Indeed, this is what the Embassy has been all along working on by encouraging Dutch companies to explore in investing in horticulture, spices, vegetables, etc. We have also been touching on animal husbandry, poultry and aquatic fishing.
Q.8 We are told the Netherlands will co-operate with Tanzania in building a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in Uyole area in the environs of Mbeya City. Under which kind of cooperation and how far have you gone in implementing this move?
Q8. - Absolutely correct. As indicated earlier on, the decision to build this center was reached during the winding up of the Tanzania Agribusiness & Investment Seminar that was held on 31st May 2017 in The Hague.
The development of the Center has been placed under the supervision of Wegeningen Agricultural Science Institute, Institute of Aeres International, and the Afrifood Cluster Emerloord of The Netherlands. The Centre will be sponsored by the Dutch Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, the Dutch Potato Farmer Association (NAO), as well as the Government of Tanzania under the Public and Private Partnership Program (PPP). Under the PPP Program, the CD-PIT will be managed by the Ministry of Agriculture as well as Companies involved in increasing the potato value chain in conjunction with the SAGCOT Center.
The period between July 2017 and June 2018 therefore, served as an inception phase in which, as its contribution, the Government of Tanzania earmarked a 30-hectare plot of land in Uyole, Mbeya for the construction of this Center. A local company, STAWISHA, has been established to work closely with Wegeningen University, and its Manager who has already been nominated has started infrastructure development of the area – such as digging boreholes, installation of irrigation system and electricity. This year’s Farmers’ day was thus an appropriate platform for the Center to be known.
Q.9 The current national agenda is agro-industrialisation. The government is implementing this agenda focus on promoting agriculture, establishing new industries and inviting serious foreign investors. Are there definite indications that Dutch investors would like to invest in Tanzania?
For sure! As mentioned above, some companies that had shown interest in potato production in Tanzania are those with expertise and capability in processing and marketing. Thus, with improved production, these companies will very likely invest in the related agri-industries, as long as we are able to produce commercially viable quantities.
Q.10 In this vein, President John Magufuli is emphatic on the search for financiers who would like to invest in the health sector, especially people willing to invest in industries that will produce locally badly needed medicines, hospital equipment and materials and establish hospitals to bridge the existing gaps in the health sector. What is the Mission’s role in search of such financiers?
Q10. - Yes. Health Sector in the Netherlands is highly advanced, there are possibilities of having investors who may assist to develop and improve our health sector not only in the construction of related industries but also hospitals. Our role will be to provide these potential investors with sufficient information as to our specific needs – the type of hospital equipment needed, or the type of medicine to be required and under what quantities.
Tanzania has benefited in medical services provided by Phillips Medical Systems B.V. of the Netherlands in the provision of new diagnostic equipment to more than 98 hospitals throughout the country; and by replacing old equipments in order to improve health services.
Another example is Health Access International B.V., which has a lot of experience in the development of excellent, and modern medical infrastructure and which has been cooperating with two private hospitals in Dar es Salaam Region. Their services can be extended further to carter for our new needs.