Snapshot of the Tanzania Agriculture Sector
Snapshot of the Tanzania Agriculture Sector

Snapshot of the Tanzania Agriculture

Contribution of agriculture to Tanzanian economy is a major in comparison to most other sectors. Tanzania’s total arable land  as of 2016 was at least 44 million in terms of hectares, whereby 33% was the only portion utilized in farming. About 70% of people who are very poor live have settlements located in

Bananas being sold at the market in Tanzania
Bananas being sold at the market in Tanzania

areas that are rural, and majority of them are big part of the overall Tanzania agriculture sector. Land is an important resource in providing guarantee for food surplus, whereby major food crops cultivated in Tanzania for food are potatoes, maize, wheat, millet, beans, rice, cassava, sorghum, and bananas. The Tanzania agriculture sector contributes significantly to the earnings acquired from exchange of foreign currency for the country, whereby 1 billion in US dollar currency of revenue gets generated from commercial crops sales.

The major 6 crops and agricultural products in Tanzania that are for commercial includes the following but not limited to tobacco, coffee, tea, sisal, cotton, and cashew. At some stage in the history of Tanzania agriculture sector, the country was the world’s biggest sisal producer.

The sector of agriculture in Tanzania is facing challenges of numerous kinds and has been given priority by the government via the ministry of agriculture in Tanzania to help with poverty reduction and improve the rate of production, efforts that have been reflected continuously through improvements of the agriculture policy in Tanzania. Successful agriculture has always been a major huddle for most Tanzania farmers, minimal availability to funding and agricultural education have led many farmers to subsistence farming. The size of the farm is very small where the size of the piece of land is approximately 2.5 hectares.

Challenges in the Tanzania agriculture sector includes climate change, drought, floods, and shocks in agriculture temperature and absence of technology in agriculture. These Tanzania agriculture problems are causing serious challenges for the livelihoods of many many farmers who take part in the Tanzania agriculture sector, situation that also lead to a sharp increase in hunger, unemployment, increased disease rates, and malnutrition.

Significant commodity prices declines, revenues from Tanzania agricultural exports are declining, rising trade deficits and budgeting all of these have hindered GDP growth. The Tanzania agriculture sector accounts for 32.4 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), definitely highlights the importance of agriculture in Tanzania.

Soil and Topography

In terms of the total area size in kilometer square, Tanzania is approximately ​​945,000 (which is equivalent to 365,000 square meters) with lakes within mainland Tanzania covering an area of ​​6% (59,000 in square kilometers (same as 23,000 square meters). Tanzania is known to be the only African country consisted of both the highest peak, which is Mount Kilimanjaro, and the most bottom point from the sea level, represented by Lake Tanganyika.

Types of soil change vastly on various areas of the country. Tanzania’s soil come into six main types including but not limited to;

  1. Volcanic soil: dominates most of the northern highlands.
  2. Sandy soil: is more prevalent especially in areas of the coast and utilized most for animal grazing.
  3. Italic soil: most commonly found in the Tabora and Mwanza regions located in the northern side of the country.
  4. Soils that are red: most common in the plains found in the central part of the country, including Dodoma Region.
  5. Sand and rock soils: found mainly in western regions such as Kigoma and Kagera.
  6. Park soil: called black sand, widespread throughout Tanzania.

In short terms, the various soil research on types aimed in finding ways to improve agriculture in Tanzania have failed to confirm the type of soil that is best for commercial or food crops.


In 2018 Tanzania produced:

Farmer irrigating spinach
Farmer irrigating spinach
  1. Maize – 5.9 million tons;
  2. Cassava – 5 million tons (cassava production in Tanzania has made the country, the world’s 12 largest producer);
  3. Sweet potatoes – 3.8 million tons (Number 4 in the world in terms of the world’s biggest producers, next to only Malawi, Nigeria, and China);
  4. Bananas – 3.4 million tons (number 10 on the top biggest producers of the world, and number 13 when considering production of other plantain varieties);
  5. Rice – 3 million tons;
  6. Sugarcane – 3 million tons;
  7. Potatoes – 1.7 million tons;
  8. Beans – 1.2 million tons (number 6 on the top world’s largest producers);
  9. Peanut – 940 thousand tons (number 7 producer among the largest ones in the world);
  10. Sunflower seeds – 930 thousand tons (12th producer on the list of the largest in the world);
  11. Sorghum – 808 thousand tons;
  12. Sesame seeds – 561 thousand tons (number 5 on the list of top producers in the world, preceded only by Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and India);
  13. Coconut – 546 thousand tons (the country holds number 11 on the world’s largest producers);
  14. Mangoes – 454 thousand tons (together with guava and mangosteen);
  15. Pineapple – 389 thousand tons;
  16. Oranges – 373 thousand tons;
  17. Tomatoes – 356,000 tons;
  18.  Cotton – 238,000 thousand tons;
  19. Cashews – 171 thousand tons (among the largest producers in the world the country came up number 6);

Additionally, the country is a smaller producer of other crops, such as tea (36 thousand tons), tobacco (107 thousand tons, 8th largest producer in the world), and sisal (33 thousand tons), coffee (55 thousand tons).


Commercial Tanzania Agricultural Products

Production of Coffee

Coffee production in Tanzania
Coffee production in Tanzania

Coffee is widely grown in large and small farms by smallholder farmers who form cooperatives that involve more than 400 thousands farmers. Tanzania has produced coffee all the way back from the beginning of colonial times and it represents one of its main exported commodities, accounting for more than 17% of the foreign exchange the country earns. Tanzania particularly cultivates coffee of type arabica; But there are also small scale farms that cultivates Robusta coffee in the region of Kagera. The coffee from Tanzania is best known worldwide as coffee from Kilimanjaro and represents as one of the major agricultural opportunities in Tanzania.

Sisal Production

In the late 19th century, the Germany East African company brought sisal to Tanzania which was originally in their Mexico colony. Kilimanjaro and Tanga, located in the northern zone of Tanzania are the regions where sisal is cultivated. As of year 1961 when Tanzania got its independence, it was ranked as the first largest producer of sisal in the world. The production of sisal consistently declined after the in introduction of the movement of Ujamaa the non stop dropping of commodity prices around the world. Recently, the government of Tanzania have made a lot of attempts in the agricultural industry with an aim of triggering agriculture transformation in Tanzania by boosting productivity and improving revenues from exports.

Cashew Production

Tanzania’s cultivation of coffee was established near the last years of the British rule around 1950s when country was known as Tanganyika. As of 2012, Tanzania ranked as the eighth largest cashew producer in the world and number four as the biggest in Africa. Poor control and the absence of guarantees to farmers in getting their payments have affected production. Lindi and Mtwara, located in the southern side of Tanzania are regions where Cashew nuts thrives unlimitedly, and at least 90% of cashews grown in those regions are exported raw. The unprocessed cashews are taken to India processing companies due to a very limited local processing capacity. The unavailability of local processing companies is costing Tanzania significant foreign exchange earnings and jobs in the thousands. Finding potential investors has always been a big struggle government of Tanzania has been trying to overcome in order to boost its capacity to process cashews locally.

Food Crops

There many food crops in the country, but the following 11 are the major ones;

  1. Beans
  2. Sugarcanes
  3. Cassavas
  4. Sunflower
  5. Maize
  6. Wheat
  7. Millet
  8. Sorghum
  9. Palm oil
  10. Rice
  11. Potatoes

Spices, Vegetables, and Traditional Medicinal Plants in Tanzania

The list of medicinal plants, spices and vegetables in Tanzania is as shown below;

Spices in Zanzibar
Spices in Zanzibar
  1. Spinach
  2. Cabbage
  3. Carrot
  4. Pea
  5. Clove
  6. Cucumber
  7. Onion
  8. Garlic
  9. Capsicum
  10. Cinnamon
  11. Mint

Fruits in Tanzania

The list of major Tanzania fruits is including but not limited to the following;

  1. Avocado
  2. Watermelon
  3. Coconut
  4. Tomato
  5. Guava
  6. Pineapple
  7. Jackfruit
  8. Papaya
  9. Lemon
  10. Okra
  11. Lime
  12. Passion fruit
  13. Lychee
  14. Orange
  15. Grape
  16. Pear
  17. Tamarind
  18. Clementine
  19. Strawberry
  20. Banana
  21. Mangoe


Statistics of the Agriculture Sector in Tanzania

Major Crop Production

There are ten non-commercial crops from year 2013 as per the following United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report:


Food Crop

Area Cultivated

YieldHg / Ha

Production, 1000 tonnes












Sweet Potatoes










Rice, Paddy










Dry Beans





Sunflower Seed










Groundnuts, with shell





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