May 29, 2003

Problems in tourism and food crop production

Tanzania's national food crop production is likely to decline by 10 percent this year compared to last year, the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) has predicted in its May report. Despite the shortfall, which has been put down to "low and erratic rainfall", FEWS said that the overall food supply situation would remain "adequate". Nonetheless, it noted that the price of staple foods began to rise in some markets in April, "contrary to the normal trend".

The organisation's monthly report noted that while national food requirements for 2003/04 are calculated at 8.4 million mt, preliminary estimates for 2002/03 food crop production are around 7.7 million mt. FEWS said that the rains in all three growing seasons had been low and erratic and, as a result, "production yields for most of the crops are likely to drop". FEWS also warned that although the overall prospects for food security were "good", rising staple prices were a cause for concern. "As production from both seasons (msimu and masika harvests) is below normal, food shortages are likely to start emerging by the end of 2003, causing further price increases. This situation, however, can be contained if the production gap is understood and addressed well in advance," the agency noted.

Earlier this year, the Tanzania Meteorological Society (TMS) warned that this year's rains would be poor. In his monthly broadcast to the nation at the end of March, President Benjamin Mkapa cautioned Tanzanians of a pending food crisis and told them to conserve food and to plant suitable crops.

In a separate development, it was reported that the move by British government to ban its planes from landing in Nairobi is impacting negatively on Tanzania. Speaking to the East African Standard in Arusha, Tanzanians expressed fear that their tourism sector could be slowly losing its market to other destinations owing to the British Airways ban.

Normally, most flights drop off their passengers headed for Arusha at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after which they catch buses to complete their journey. "Currently, the number of tourists visiting Zanzibar for instance is steadily falling as they have got to go there en-route Nairobi," said Lucy Samwel.

Samwel who works at the Radio Uhuru also noted that the journey to other parts of Africa has become unnecessarily long for those using Nairobi. "If you wish to go to Zambia, you now have to go to Dar es Salaam, spend a night there, go via Johannesburg in South Africa, spend there another night and then proceed to Lusaka," she added. A lecturer at the MS Training Centre for Development Co-operation situated in Arusha voiced similar sentiments saying most of their students who use BA flights have been greatly disadvantaged. He appealed to the British government to rescind its decision and lift the ban. (IRIN / The East African Standard, Nairobi)

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