Poor logistics to hamper cereals supply to famine areas
Food scarcity in the country’s drought hit districts could get worse as the government’s entire system of cereals purchase and transport from areas with surplus to deficit areas seems to be inadequate.
Reports form the southern highland food surplus regions state that the network of the National Food Reserve (NFRA) is not broad enough, thereby limiting the agency’s capacity to reach farmers at the grassroots level.
Last week, the minister for Agriculture Food Security and Cooperative, Professor Jumanne Maghembe, said the government would purchase 200,000 tonnes during 2011/ 2012 financial year.
The areas worst hit by food shortage are Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, and Shinyanga regions. The minister said the government has taken measures to enable NFRA to purchase the needed foodstuffs.
According to Maghembe some 115,000 tonnes of cereals will be transported from reserves located in Sumbawanga, Makambako and Songea to area experiencing shortage.
During the ongoing parliamentary session legislators, particularly from Rukwa Region, pressured government, voicing criticism against the decision to ban the sale of foodstuffs across the borders until end of the year.
They were concerned that the government ordered the ban even though foodstuff prices offered by NFRA remained relatively low.
Deusderius Mipata, Nkasi South MP (CCM) said some 500,000 tonnes of surplus maize were stranded in the area because the government restricted the sale of foodstuffs beyond the borders.
He queried: “We’ve excess cereals, more than the NFRA can purchase…people (in my constituency) sent me here to speak on their behalf; would you (government) have given the directive if this were election year?”
Moshi Kakoso, MP for Mpanda Rural asked: “Is it a sin for Rukwa people to produce excess cereals?”
Josephat Kandege(CCM) from Kalambo constituency said: “I differ with fellow MPs…I support the government decision to close the borders but the order should be executed by offering acceptable prices; otherwise the entire purpose is totally defeated.”
Noting the arguments of Rukwa MPs, which were supported by other legislators, Maghembe announced in the House that the government has set the minimum price of Sh350 per kilogramme of maize or Sh35,000 for a 100 kilogramme bag.
He, however, maintained that the order against selling foodstuffs outside the country would stay
As NFRA’s capacity is just 200,000 tonnes the stated increase in the price of foodstuffs could do little in solving the highly articulated problem at a time the farmers get poorer.
With huge amounts of cereals stranded, farmers unable to benefit owing to low produce prices and acute food shortage in neighbouring countries there is possibility of foodstuffs being smuggled out of the country, sources said.
Meanwhile, according to Maghembe 56 districts in 16 regions in the country face a critical food shortage.
The harvest forecast this season is to produce only 6,786,600 tonnes of cereals against the national requirement of 7,200,340 tonnes, creating a deficit of 413,740 tonnes.
However, the country expects to have a surplus of 1,725 143 tonnes of other foodstuffs such as cassava, potatoes and bananas.