To alleviate SADC, EAC food shortages
Tanzania is set to export rice and maize in thirteen Southern African Development Community (SADC) and East African Community (EAC) member states currently hit by acute food shortages. The government said yesterday that it is now finalising fresh cereal export procedures to be released next week.
Export of traditional rice and maize was scrapped by the government in 2014 to allow thorough assessment of Tanzania’s rice and maize production outlook.
Presenting a government statement in the ongoing National Assembly here, the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Charles Tizeba, said that the state of food production in the country between 2015/16 and 2016/17 indicated that supply had surpassed demand by 23 per cent.
A combined production outlook for 2016/17 shows that there will be 16,172,841 tonnes of grains out of which 9,457,108 tonnes will be cereals and 6,715,733 tonnes will be non-cereals.
“For the country to be food secure, we need 13.12 million tonnes of which 8.2 million will consist of cereals and 4.8 million tonnes will be non-cereals,” the minister told the National Assembly. This means Tanzania will have 3.02 million tonnes of excess produce.
The minister explained that the government had secured funds from Poland to finance the capacity of the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to a tune of 55 million US dollars. He added that the agency will only be able to reserve 496,000 tonnes of the total production.
“Currently, the agency has capacity to reserve 246,000 tonnes. NFRA has now distributed 27.8bn/- to buy 100,000 tonnes of grains during the financial year 2016/17,” he said. He added that due to excess production the agency has requested for an addition of 69.5bn/- to buy an extra 100,000 tonnes. If the agency buys the 200,000 tonnes, it will have tripled its capacity from last year’s 67,506 tonnes.
The minister, however, explained that the decision by the government to okay the sale of grains outside the country will be effectively monitored to ensure food safety back home.
Kenya, in the East African Community (EAC) and Zambia in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have banned exports of cereals owing to acute food shortages in their countries Thirteen more countries in the regions are facing food shortages, according to the minister.
The agriculture minister, however, pointed out that 69 councils in the country recorded poor food production during the 2015/16 season. Dr Tizeba seized the opportunity to poke holes in the current system used to issue permits for grain exports, saying it contained a cocktail of irregularities.
He highlighted some as including failure to impose restrictions on the volume to be exported by a trader.
“Some companies were allowed to export up to 350,000 tonnes. This is much greater than the national reserve capacity.” “We’re now finalising plans to establish a cereal and other produce regulatory authority. The body will be empowered to regulate all matters related to grain production, exports and imports,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government said it is conducting a comprehensive food and nutrition security vulnerability assessment to identify the actual volume of food demands in the country.
The assessment planned for October, this year, will be conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in collaboration with international organisations; Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).