Market Assessment

The spice industry in Tanzania, Akyoo and Lazaro / DIIS, 2007-8

    The fall in the agricultural sector's contribution to Tanzanian export earnings since the early 1990s has increased attention toward new crops with the potential of supplementing the country's traditional export crops. Particular attention has been focused upon identifying crops enjoying price stability, high demand elasticity and low substitutability. Spices fall into this category. Consequently there have been efforts by public agencies and private exporters, both on the mainland and on Zanzibar, to promote the crop. However, access to high value export markets raises issues of supply chain dynamics and conformity with international standards.

    The first paper (2007) focuses upon the recent history of the spice industry in Tanzania with reference to these issues. The main conclusions are that Certified Organic standards are the only international standards complied with, and that a very loosely coordinated chain exists alongside a more coordinated one. Macro- and micro-institutional weaknesses need attention if the full potential of the sub-sector is to be realized.

    The second paper (2008) considers the local capacity for standards conformity assessment - as an important component in accessing export markets. In theory, it will lead to lowered compliance costs on the part of local exporters. Moreover, it may provide local exporters with the ability to contest unfavourable foreign test results and thus avoid unnecessary losses. This is important in cases where product contamination occurs outside their borders. This is however possible only where relevant local institutions are accredited and adequately capitalized in terms of laboratory facilities, testing equipment, and certification services.

    Tanzania spices have four important market destinations - the domestic market, regional markets in Africa, the Asian market, and the EU market. The national standards that were formulated during late 1970s and 1980s address cleanliness and quality standards, and specify microbiological limits for various micro-organisms in spices. These standards are not observed in the local market due to lack of consumer demand for them and the absence of a deliberate industry drive to en-force them. This position weakens the possibility of using conformity to local standards as a step-ping stone to international conformity. Regional markets in Africa and Asian export markets are absorbing spice imports regardless of their quality so issues of conformity assessment in these markets are not important.

    EU market standards are concerned with food safety. In addition, organically-traded exports must be certified as such. For food safety the main tests demanded are for hazards like aflotoxins, pesticide residues, prohibited chemical dyes, heavy metals, as well as for Salmonella. Conformity assessment for these parameters entails investments in high performance liquid chromatograph, gas chromatograph, and atomic absorption spectrophotometer equipment, as well as other state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.

    Local conformity assessment in relation to these standards is deficient in many ways. Different approaches are recommended to address this situation. Meeting challenges of international accreditation, harnessing scattered efforts for conformity assessment capacity through improved coordination of existing laboratories, and formulation of a national food safety policy are among the recommendations suggested.