Tanzania Sisal

The sisal sub-sector is the oldest commercially organized agricultural undertaking and one of the longest surviving agricultural industries in Tanzania.

Today, the sisal industry in Tanzania employs over 100,000 people, with a total production of about 40,000 tons.

Farmers participating in the sisal value chain include those engaged in planting sisal for hedges, smallholders in estates and smallholders growing sisal as a cash crop in non-estate areas. In 2012, approximately 25% of sisal was produced by smallholders.

The main product derived from sisal is fibre. However, the extracted fibre constitutes only 2% of the sisal plant, while the other 98% is regarded as waste.

The fibres are then used to produce twine, cordage for hay, packaging, baling, building and many other uses including carpets, wall covering, doormats, car mats, buffing cloth used for polishing of metal and furniture, fine yarn, bag cloth, padding, mattresses and handicrafts.

New products developed from the sisal plant include pulp and paper mainly for making boxes for packaging.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), recent studies have shown that sisal waste is more valuable than the fibre.

Products obtained from sisal waste include biogas used in engine-generator sets to produce electricity.

The by-product from the biogas plant is organic fertilizer. Sisal waste can also be used directly as animal feed.

Traditionally, sisal fibre and products have mostly been exported to the European Union (EU), the Russian Federation, the former Yugoslavia, Japan, India, China and Pakistan and recently to Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran.

According to the latest data by the Bank of Tanzania (BOT), Tanzania exported 793 tons of sisal in Q3 2016.

Tanzania Sisal Market Outlook

In April 2016, Yunus Mssika, Senior Quality Assurance Officer at the Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB), announced that the country is increasing its sisal production with the objective to reach 100,000 metric tons by 2021.

FAO indicates that demand for new products made from sisal has been growing at a very fast rate in the world market over the past decade.

“Tanzania has a unique position as it has comparative and competitive advantages in sisal, such as the weather, soil and human capital which is a catalyst to the growth of the industry,” FAO notes.

Furthermore, it is estimated that by 2025 at least 100 000 tons of fibre will be needed in Tanzania alone.

In the Near East the increased utilization of sisal in construction has made the region the second largest user of sisal fibre in the world.

In the Far East, particularly China, imports of sisal fibre have grown significantly in recent years, according to FAO.

The majority of this fibre is utilized more in the new products, such as industrial polishing cloth and composites.