Tanzania puts large rice and sugar farms up for sale

The government is inviting international and domestic investors to make offers for 60,000 hectares of prime sugar- and rice-producing land in the southern agricultural region.

Tanzania’s government has put 60,000 hectares of rice and sugar farming land on the market, hoping to entice both international and domestic investors with rarely-available large plots, as it looks to boost large-scale farming capacity and productivity.

The government, through the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), is calling for proposals to develop six farms in the Mkulazi region of southern Tanzania. The land will be split into two sugar farms of 20,000 hectares each and four rice farms covering 5,000 hectares each. The farms will be available on 66-year leases.

The sale of the long leases is part of a drive by the Tanzanian authorities to help develop the country’s southern farming corridor, and bridge the gap between demand and current supply of sugar and rice in particular. Around 90 percent of Tanzania’s rice production comes from farms smaller than 1.3 hectares with yields roughly a third of what is achieved in neighbouring Kenya and Rwanda, TIC research claims.

However, plans to sell large plots of land have provoked concerns that small farmers’ livelihoods may be threatened by big commercial enterprises. The Tanzanian government has pledged to local landowners that land would not be grabbed for the project, and has said it would take precautions to make sure that people in the area would benefit from the investment.

As part of its pitch to investors, the TIC said that commercial farmland developers would benefit from complimentary public and private investment into local infrastructure and finance through the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) initiative to develop the area.

Similar Tanzanian projects have attracted international investment. Norway’s Norfund, social social impact investor and agribusiness developer AgDevCo and private investment group Capricorn back East Africa’s leading rice producer Agrica, which owns a near 6,000 hectares farm in the Kilombero Valley, close to the latest proposed farms.