SOME Members of Parliament (MPs) are calling for new strategies to further transform agriculture, claiming that the sector has been underfunded for decades despite its enormous economic contribution.
For the fiscal year ending June 2021, the agricultural sector accounted for 26.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to official data, the state allocated over 294 billion dollars this fiscal year to support the sector, which accounts for nearly 65 per cent of all jobs in the country.
Debating proposals for the national development plan in the National Assembly over the weekend, the MPs said the government must review the budget allocated for the Ministry of Agriculture to help address challenges facing farmers and the industry.
Former Agriculture Minister Japhet Hasunga said the new national development plan for 2021/22 had surprisingly failed to mention the government’s growth projection for the sector.
“The new plan indicates the agricultural sector contributed 26.9 per cent to the GDP, but at what growth?” he asked.
Hasunga said the growth projections are vital in the plan to help set measurable priorities.
The MP said the sector needed more funding and must be taken seriously due to its contribution.
Agriculture is the largest source of raw materials for hundreds of agro-processing industries.
It is also a major source of foreign currency earnings.
The MPs said the new strategies should help redefine the country’s resources notably the water bodies, to help improve irrigation farming.
Special Seats MP, Halima Mdee (CHADEMA) expressed dismay that the agricultural budget continues to be miniature.
Equally, the legislator called for the government to give the same weight it had extended to revive the national flag carrier-ATCL to further boost its contribution to the economy and the people.
“For the last three years, the government planned to release over 3.39trn/- to ATCL, yet the state managed to release over 1.9trn/-,” she pointed out.
Another MP Mr Godwin Kunambi (CCM) said the agricultural sector is vital for the country, and therefore serious measures must be put in action to improve irrigation schemes and research for agro markets. Ms Neema Lugangira (Special Seats, CCM) in her contribution said it’s high time that the government tapped into digital development to help im- prove the agricultural sector in the country.
The MP was of the view that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the new area that must be given priority to support agricultural growth.