Tanzania reports bumper harvest

Posted on : Tuesday , 27th January 2015

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – The government has announced that last year the country had bumper harvest of food crops, in particular cereals, but is now struggling in procurement and storage of the surplus. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, the country produced 16.02 million tonnes of cereals last year compared to 14.38 million tonnes in the preceding season reflecting an increase of 1.64 million tonnes.
In his New Year message to the nation last week monitored by this paper, President Jakaya Kikwete highlighted the situation.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that last year’s food output exceeds the national annual food demand by about 3.25 million tonnes, which included 1.55 million tonnes of maize and 794 tonnes of rice.
According to President Kikwete, last year was good for Tanzania in as far as food production was concerned except for a few isolated cases of famine in some parts of the country. 
“But it is regrettable that some parts of the country predominantly the southern highlands areas continued to experience lack of markets for their crops for a number of reasons such as poor roads, and poor transport facilities,” he said.  
It is evident that in places such as Katavi, Mbeya Rukwa and Ruvuma regions, pyramids of maize bags were often seen piled up outside state-owned warehouses, while a lot more of the crops remained rotting in some villages.
President Kikwete acknowledged that the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) is presently besieged and is not able to procure all excess maize, paddy, millet and sorghum as the role of the agency was to buy just a part of the surplus food crops produced in the country for strategic reasons that include reserves for areas hit by food shortage and other catastrophes.
It is estimated that the NFRA plans to buy 292,415.40 tonnes of food this year but has a holding capacity of only 246,000 tonnes of cereals in its warehouses although there are plans to enhance the capacity to 400,000 tonnes by the end of this year.
In this context, the agency has no place to put up over 50,000 tonnes while about 3.0 million tonnes would remain with the farmers in remote areas which calls for swift intervention by the private sector and other partners to help secure the market for crops locally or somewhere else.
Without implementing this, millions of farmers in Tanzania would be discouraged and continue to be continuously swimming in poverty.
Several months ago, the government announced that it was in the process of lifting a food crops export embargo a move that was greeted with high spirits by farmers countrywide particularly the well known food basket or the big six namely Katavi, Mbeya Rukwa, Ruvuma, Kigoma, and Morogoro regions where farmers in the said regions have been complaining lack of markets for maize, rice and millet.
Experts advise that in this digital era, it is easy for a paddy farmer in the valleys of Kilombero near the coast or Usangu as well as a maize grower in Nkasi in the south-west part of Tanzania as well as Kibaigwa in central Tanzania to access latest trends of prices and markets through the easiest mode – their mobile phones.
Furthermore, they counsel that it is also imperative to be on guard as to the quantity of food being sold outside the country which will make the nation avoid cases of excessive exportation and end up with an ugly incident of self-inflicted food shortage.

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