Why trade in chemicals has surged in Tanzania since 2020

The government’s Chief Chemist, Dr Fidelice, Mafumiko, addresses reporters and editors during a press conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | SUNDAY GEORGE

What you need to know:

  • Along with streamlining the regulatory structure, the revisions addressed difficulties encountered in putting the current legislation into practise

Dar es Salaam. The revision of the law on the Management of Industrial and Consumer Chemicals in 2020 has paved the way for a surge in chemical imports in the country, the government said yesterday.

The move notably saw the importation of sulphur-type chemicals – used as pesticides in agriculture increase from 99,594 metric tonnes in 2020/21 to over one million metric tonnes in 2022/23, according to the Government Chemist Laboratory Authority (GCLA).

Addressing editors and journalists from various media outlets, the chief government chemist, Dr Fidelice Mafumiko, highlighted the positive impact of the revised law on chemical control in the nation.

He emphasised that the amendments have not only streamlined the regulatory framework but have also addressed challenges faced in implementing existing laws.

“The state of chemical control is currently good and satisfactory because the implementation of the Law on the Management of Industrial and Consumer Chemicals has been reviewed,” Dr Mafumiko explained.

Previously, the importation of chemicals was not allowed in bulk, but the 2020 reforms allowed it to tap its potential.

He further stressed that the move to allow the importation of sulphur, a long-standing demand from traders, has significantly increased chemical cargo through the port of Dar es Salaam.

Providing examples of the impact, Dr Mafumiko said the importation of ammonium nitrate also increased from 65,526 metric tonnes in 2020/21 to 310,299 metric tonnes in 2022/23, while that of sodium cyanide used in mining increased from 23,533 metric tonnes to 37,331 metric tonnes during the period.

He said that, more than 26,820 metric tonnes of sodium cyanide were imported and exported for gold extraction activities, contributing to increased income and employment opportunities for Tanzanians.

However, Dr Mafumiko stressed the paramount importance of adhering to established procedures during the entire chemical life cycle, from importation to transportation, to protect both health and the environment.

Notably, he highlighted the potential dangers associated with certain chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate, which can have explosive properties.

To address safety concerns, the director of services and control, Mr Daniel Ndiyo, underlined the government’s commitment to educating drivers involved in transporting chemicals. “No driver is allowed to transport chemicals without a training certificate from the authority,” Mr Ndiyo explained, emphasising the need for drivers to be well-prepared to handle any potential dangers.

In addition to its role in regulating chemical trade, the office of the Chief Chemist plays a crucial role in forensic activities. Dr Mafumiko shared insights into the increasing demand for sample testing, particularly in cases related to inheritance disputes, sexual harassment, and criminal activities.

“The criminal samples are the ones that lead to being received in the office of the chief chemist of the government,” explained the Director of Criminal Science Services, Mr David Elias.

He highlighted the diverse range of incidents requiring evidence, including road accidents, fires, and murder cases.

Dr Mafumiko further highlighted the pivotal role of the Chief Chemist’s Office in providing evidence for various legal matters, including cases involving drugs, murder, rape, prostitution, poaching of wild animals, and disputes related to inheritance.

In the fiscal year 2021-2022, the Chief Chemist’s office exceeded expectations by examining an average of 155,817 samples, equivalent to 139.94 percent of the target. The trend continued in the fiscal year 2022-2023, with 212,306 samples subjected to laboratory examination, representing 133.9 percent of the target.

He attributed this efficiency to the implementation of the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), which connects the Criminal Justice System to exchange information on laboratory investigation results with other criminal justice systems.