The potatoes grown in Tsangano district, in the western Mozambican province of Tete, are still being sold across the border in Malawi, rather than on the domestic market.
This is a longstanding problem, caused essentially by transport difficulties. The road from Tsangano to Tete city is in very poor conditions – indeed, the initial stretch of this road, from Tsangano to Mpula is regarded as impassable. Malawi, however, is just a stone’s thrown from the Tsangano district capital.
Speaking to reporters at the Maputo International Trade Fair (FACIM), held last week in Marracuene district, 30 kilometres from the Mozambican capital, the Tete Provincial Director of Agriculture, Americo Conceicao, said “Tsangano produces potatoes all year round, but faces the constraint of the roads leading to other parts of the province. That’s why much of the production is sold in Malawi”.
Tsangano peasant farmers can easily walk over the border into Malawi. But they earn little money from this business. The trade is entirely informal, and individual Mozambican farmers find it difficult to negotiate prices with the Malawian buyers.
The Tete authorities say that rehabilitating the road to Tsangano is among their top priorities, and is included in the Strategic Plan for the province – but the project still has no funding.
Conceicao said that a further major challenge is to find businesses interested in agro-processing, which would allow potatoes and other agricultural produce to undergo primary processing in the province.
Three other Tete districts – Angonia, Macanga and Moatize – also produce potatoes. But only Tsangano enjoys the climatic conditions that permit farmers to produce potatoes throughout the year.
The four districts could easily supply potatoes for the entire province, with a surplus that could be sent to other parts of the country. Conceicao said there has been a great expansion of potato production in Tete, with the implementation of the National Food Production Plan.