Dar es Salaam. The National Food Reserve Authority (NFRA) will this week release into the market 3,000 tonnes of maize in response to skyrocketing prices of the cereal.
Latest market reports show that prices of staple foods – including maize, rice, sorghum and beans – have increased sharply across the country in recent months.
A 25-kilogramme bag of maize flour currently commands an average wholesale price of Sh35,000, with retailers selling the commodity at Sh1,600 per kilogramme in some areas.
Wholesale maize prices at Dar es Salaam’s Kariakoo market ranged from Sh47,000 to Sh60,000 per 100kg sack towards the end of December 2018, but had shot up to between Sh85,000 and Sh87,000 as of December 23, 2019.
NFRA chief executive Milton Lupa told The Citizen yesterday that the decision to release thousands of tonnes of maize into the market was aimed at stabilising prices.
“CPB (Cereals and Other Produce Board) will also release maize flour into the market in Dar es Salaam,” he said without specifying the quantity.
While a number of regions – including Dodoma, Tabora, Singida, Mara and Shinyanga – will be supplied with maize from NFRA’s storage facilities, Dar es Salaam will receive maize flour from CPB.
Mr Lupa allayed fears that the food is likely to fall into the hands of racketeers.
“We have taken precautionary measures to ensure that the food to be released serves its intended purpose, and won’t be used to enrich a few unscrupulous individuals,” he said, adding that the intervention was agreed during a joint meeting involving the Agriculture ministry, Bank of Tanzania (BoT), NFRA and CPB.
CPB director general Anselem Moshi declined to comment yesterday.
In another development, ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said yesterday that spiralling food prices made life tougher for ordinary Tanzanians.
“The price of a 100-kilogramme sack of maize has risen to Sh80,900 from Sh37,000 recorded last October. A similar trend has been witnessed with other important food items such as rice and beans.
“In October 2015 when the fifth phase government came into office, the country’s food reserves amounted to 253,000 tonnes. However, they have since declined to 55,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to one kilogramme for every Tanzanian,” he said in a video clip posted on Twitter
He accused the government of failing to set aside adequate funds for buying reserve food.
According to the BoT Monthly Economic Review for December 2019, Tanzania had 253,655 tonnes of maize in reserve in October 2015; 238,133 tonnes in November 2015 and 180,746.3 tonnes in December 2015.
There were 125,666 tonnes in January 2016; 86,833 tonnes in January 2017; 91,947 tonnes in January 2018; 93,037.2 tonnes in January 2019; 55,853 tonnes in October 2019 and 52,726.9 tonnes in November 2019.
Mr Lupa said an evaluation by the Agriculture ministry shows that at least 25,000 tonnes of maize were needed to offset any shortage up to March, this year, and 35,000 tonnes to May, adding that NFRA expects to purchase 110,000 tonnes of maize in May and June, this year.
He said NFRA will this week dispatch 7,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe in line with an agreement to supply the southern African country with 20,000 tonnes of the cereal.
“We have already supplied Zimbabwe with 7,000 tonnes of maize, and we expect a delegation from that country to come and take delivery of an additional 7,000 tonnes after making the necessary payments.”