Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli yesterday opened a maize mill that can process 20 tonnes of maize in 24 hours.
The plant, one of the largest in the country, is located at the Mlale area in Songea District and comes as a huge relief to maize farmers in Southern Highlands regions who have for years complained of lack of markets for their produce.
Speaking during the launch, President Magufuli said that the opening of the plant would go a long way in reducing yield loss that reaches about 40 per cent for all crops occasioned by the lack of markets and poor storage.
“This milling plant will ensure that farmers in this area and Ruvuma Region have a place to sell all their surplus maize,” said President Magufuli of the plant that has an annual production capacity of 5,280 tonnes.
The plant would add value to the maize and potentially lead to higher prices to farmers., the Chief of Defence Forces, General Venance Mabeyo, told President Magufuli at the opening of the plant that has been constructed and is owned by the National Service.
“Mr President, we are encouraged by the fact that the plant will provide the much needed market access to maize farmers not only from around the Mlale but from other areas as well,” General Mabeyo noted.
Despite producing surplus maize, Tanzania has often failed to clinch export markets due to inadequate processing facilities, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Japhet Hasunga.
“The opening of this plant means that we can access more export markets. Recently we missed an opportunity to export maize flour to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because we only had unprocessed maize grains,” Mr Hasunga noted.
Maize is Tanzania’s staple food and is mainly produce by smallholders. About 65 per cent of the maize produced is consumed in the households with the rest sold. The country produced 5.2 million tonnes in the 2012/13 harvest season against the requirement of 4.8 million tonnes, according to latest data from the ministry of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, the National Service yesterday handed to President Magufuli a Sh700 million cheque as its dividend to the government.
“The money will be deposited with the Ministry of Finance and would go into the budget system. This should be a wake-up call to other government enterprises that have not yet given the government dividends to do so. If the army can give the government dividends why they can’t other government enterprises?” President Magufuli said.