July 25, 2003

Tanzania short of 0.8m tonnes of food

Tanzania is facing a food shortage of 814,000 tonnes beginning in July, and up to next May, because freak weather pushed harvests down by ten per cent this season. Food production was estimated at 7.55 million tonnes in the 2002/2003 season against 8.37 million tonnes of food requirements to feed 34 million people, according to a ministry of agriculture and food security report. This estimated gap is based purely on preliminary 2002/03 national crop production estimates released in April 2003 in relation to estimated food requirements, without considering carryover stocks and /or inter-and intra-region/district trade.

Only Rukwa, Mbeya, Iringa, Kagera and Kigoma are likely to have surplus food crops of over 50,000 tonnes a region. While four regions such as Kilimanjaro, Mtwara, Ruvuma and Tanga expected to experience surpluses of below 50,000 tonnes. Manyara, Arusha, Lindi, Dodoma, Singida, Tabora, Coast, Morogoro, Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga and Dar es Salaam will have various levels of deficit. Kagera will not face a shortage because of its high dependence on bananas (matoke), which, together with other crops such as potatoes, are doing well with the recent rainfall, said the report.

According to the report, the Northern Zone is estimated to have a total food production of 1.168 million tonnes in 2002/03, against the requirement of 1.35 million tonnes in 2003/04. Central and Western Zone food production is estimated at 1.413 million tonnes in 2002/03 season, against the requirement of 1.514 million tonnes. Lake Zone food production is estimated at 2.155 million tonnes in 2002/04 against 2.244 million tonnes in 2003/04. The South Coast Zone estimated to produce 181,000 tonnes of food against 238,600 tonnes. The East Cost zone is projected to produce 526,600 tonnes in 2002/03 season against the requirement of 654,400 tonnes in 2003/04, hence it would face food shortage of 127,700 tonnes. Southern Highlands are estimated to produce 1.75 million tonnes in 2002/03 against 1.465 million tonnes in 2003/04, these regions experience food surplus of 288,200 tonnes in 2003/04.

According to report by the ministry of co-operatives and marketing weekly reports, the unexpected price rise in certain markets is mainly attributed to already recorded and expected crop failures. Whereas the declining prices in the Southern Highland Region is attributed in part to reduced export of maize to Southern Africa and in part it contributed by availability of new harvest, both of which increase local supplies of grain.

Last week, the national average for maize price was Tsh15,900 for a 100-kilogramme bag at wholesales, up from Tsh15,700 per 100-kilogramme bag in the previous week. The highest price of maize was in Mara where a 100-kilogramme bag sold at Tsh25,000 since the beginning of this month. Prices at markets of Musoma, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Lindi, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Mtwara, Moshi, Tanga, Tabora, Mtwara and Dodoma were between Tsh16,000 and Tsh25,000 per 100 kilogramme bag. In the remaining regions, maize prices were below Tsh15,000 per 100-kilogramme bag. Maize prices at Mbeya, Songea and Sumbawanga markets were Tsh10,500, Tsh9,000 and Tsh 9,500 respectively for a 100-kilogramme bag at wholesale. The rising maize prices are causing concern because the crop is the staple for the majority of Tanzanians. As prices rise, the purchasing power of these and other market-dependant households decreases. Increasing maize prices may also trigger price increases of maize substitutes. According to a survey by this paper at some of markets in Dar es Salaam last week, prices of beans fluctuated at between Tsh41,500 and Tsh41,700 for a 100-kilogramme bag at wholesale. At retail shops and small markets, the average price of beans went up to Tsh600 a kilogramme in the past three weeks compared with Tsh500 a kilogramme last year.

Beans are the major relish for most households in the country. They are relatively cheap source of proteins compared with fish and meat. If prices rise some households could be forced to reduce the quantities they normally consume. However, rising bean prices will enable the farmers to earn much, allowing them to offset some of losses to household food income caused by the drop in maize production. In 2002/03, the country produced about 779,000 tonnes of beans- up from 683,000 tonnes in the previous year. The price for rice was Tsh36,300 per 100-kilogramme bag last week, a slight increase from Tsh 36,000 in the previous week. In 2002/03, the country production was 593,000 tonnes, less from 640,000 tonnes in the previous year. (Business Times, Dar es Salaam)

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