Tanzania: Unlocking sustainable growth through improved fertilizer policies

In June 2006, the AU member states adopted the “Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution” and resolved to increase fertilizer consumption rates across the continent from 8 kilograms per hectare to 50 kilograms per hectare by 2015, a target whose deadline has been surpassed.

In Tanzania, fertilizer usage stands at 13.68 kg/ha of fertilizer use, falling 3.6 times lower than the AU target. Although limited awareness, access and affordability are cited as some of the limitations hampering farmers’ ability to utilize fertilizer, the policy context presents a further challenge to the fertilizer adoption process.

Despite generating interest amongst multiple agencies and creating an overlap of regulatory mandates, compliance costs, such as chargeable fees and levies, and the requirements for doing business could discourage private sector investment as well as potential investments in research and development for the production of new types of fertilizer to meet farmers’ needs.  In turn, this could prevent farmers from accessing new technologies.  

On the other hand, fertilizer registration requirements are time-consuming and costly.  According to the Tanzania Fertilizer Act (2009) and its associated fertilizer regulations of 2011, a three-year trial at the cost of US$ 10,000 per year is compulsory for new fertilizer, fertilizer supplement and/or blended formula prior to market entry. The high costs and logistical bottlenecks limit the number of farmers that can access fertilizer, this in turn hampers productivity, income and ultimately the food security of farmers.

AGRA’s policy and advocacy strategy is key to resolving the policy challenges already described. The twin- track approach combines evidence generation demonstrating the worth and merit of reforms and public-private engagements to validate reform options and to navigate the policy process along the government’s bureaucratic phases on the reforms.

These are the steps AGRA took to support the government-led policy cycle:

  • AGRA commissioned an ex-ante economic impact assessment study of policy and regulatory reforms, a legal analysis and a cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate the rationale for the proposed reforms and amendments to overcome conflict or lack of alignment in the provisions.
  • AGRA provided a grant to the Tanzania Fertilizer Society of Tanzania (FST) to support private sector engagement in the coordination and monitoring process of existing regulations. Private sector has firsthand experience of the challenges facing agribusiness investors; hence it is better placed to articulate and advocate for reforms to improve the business enabling environment.
  • AGRA provided a grant to the Ministry of Agriculture to coordinate the policy process along the bureaucratic channels. Engagement with the government is important because they formulate and enact policies, and understand the processes through which reforms can be effected.
  • Finally, a key factor was a policy network, spanning key institutions, including research institutes and partners (such as the Tanzania Fertilizer Regulatory Authority (TFRA)).

AGRA’s twin approach to working with both the private sector and the government to successfully resolve problematic policies and regulations lead to multiple outcomes. Obstacles to registering customized and specialist blends of fertilizers were removed – with testing reduced to one year and taxes and fees charged by various regulatory authorities during importation and clearing abolished. The number of fertilizer businesses jumped from 420 to 2500 as a consequence of reform, fertilizer prices paid by farmers went down by between 10% and 40% while fertilizer usage went up from 302,450 tons to 435,178 tons. Preliminary field tests show that the reforms yielded a return of Tsh 0.99 for every shilling invested compared to a yield of 0.13 under status quo.

Indeed, AGRA’s twin strategy approach to policy and advocacy has brought about significant and positive impacts to the productivity and incomes of farmers, and has the potential for further unlocking sustainable growth in Tanzania.

Read the full policy here authored by Boaz Keizire – Head, Policy & Advocacy, Tinashe Kapuya – Senior Program Officer, Policy & State Capability and Liston Njoroge Program Officer, Policy & Advocacy

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