Dodoma. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has directed the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and that of Agriculture to immediately end sugar smuggling.
He also urged state organs to give the much-needed cooperation to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and Sugar Board of Tanzania (SBT) in a fight against sugar smuggling.
The directive was issued yesterday here in the House as the premier was postponing the 12th meeting of the 11th Parliament to November 6, 2018.
“I need responsible authorities to do all in their power to make a problem a thing of the past. We need to create a fair playing ground for businesses for the prosperity of our local factories, but this is only possible if we control smuggling.”
Tanzania has four major sugar companies. They are Mtibwa Sugar Estates, Kagera Sugar Ltd, Kilombero Sugar and TPC Ltd.
Mr Majaliwa’s directive comes hard on the heels of last’s week’s heated debate during the questions-and-answers session in the House over the position of the government in addressing smuggling.
Nkenge MP Diodorus Kamala (CCM) asked the government what it was doing to end sugar smuggling.
Mr Kamala lamented that smuggled sugar was threatening the survival of local sugar producers.
He was seconded by Mpwapwa MP George Lubeleje (CCM).
“Sugar prices are high despite the fact that many tonnes are unnecessarily kept in warehouses,” lamented Mr Lubeleje. “A kilo of sugar is sold at Sh2, 600 and Sh3,000. This is unacceptable.”
Recently, Tanzania Sugar Producers Association director Seif Seif told reporters that as sugar smuggling was rampant, four companies were unable to sell 80,000 tonnes of sugar imported for domestic consumption between March and June this year.
The amount represents 61.5 per cent of the 130,000 tonnes imported legally by the companies to fill the gap as local production during the period stopped to pave the way for sugarcane harvest.
Industry, Trade and Investment minister Charles Mwijage said the government had formed a task force to investigate the matter.
The team, according to him consists of members from Fair Competition Commission, TFDA, TBS and Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau.
“I understand some unscrupulous traders illegally use local brands to sell the illegal imported sugar. This is a serious economic crime,” he warned.
Stakeholders in their survey found some sugar with sacks bearing Tanzanian companies’ logo was in the market, suggesting that the foreign sugar was brought into the country and repackaged into bags of local brands to conceal it from authorities.
“This is a big blow to our local sugar companies that are already grappling with a myriad of market challenges. The government is working hard to put the culprits to task.”
Last year for-instance, some 13 tonnes of sugar were seized in Kagera Region by authorities as smugglers sought to illegally cross the border to Kenya with the consignment.
The product from the Kagera Sugar factory was switched and packed into bags from the South Nyanza Sugar Company Limited (Sony Sugar) of Kenya to try and dupe officials into thinking that the product originated from the neighbouring country.
Also players in the industry pointed an accusing finger at dishonest traders, saying they have been taking to market the industrial sugar in the name of table sugar of which, local producers said was unhealthy for domestic consumption.