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Tanzania government allays food security fears amid rising prices

Tuesday December 08 2020
Food pic

The government said yesterday that Tanzanians were assured of food security amid reports of spiralling prices in the global market. PHOTO | FILE

By Josephine Christopher

Dar es Salaam. Rising global food prices will have no impact on Tanzania’s food security, a senior government official assured yesterday - thereby trashing reports that the country could face extra pressure on its food security situation.

The permanent secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gelard Kusaya, told The Citizen yesterday that the country’s food security situation was intact and that there had never been a shortage of any kind.

“As a country we have enough food and we have never depended on any foreign assistance when it comes to feeding our people,” he said.

Mr Kusaya was responding to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which said prices of the most globally traded food commodities rose sharply in November to their highest levels in nearly six years, a situation that was putting extra pressure on Tanzania’s food security.

The UN food agency named Tanzania as among 45 countries that would continue to be in need of external assistance for food.

In its quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, FAO stated that there are localized shortfalls in staple food production in Tanzania.

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“About 499,000 people were estimated to be in need of emergency assistance in the May-September 2020 period, mainly in northeastern Manyara and Kilimanjaro regions and in central Dodoma and Singida regions, where 2019 harvests were affected by prolonged dry spells that resulted in significant cereal production losses,” it stated.

But Mr Kusaya said currently the country’s food stocks are nearly 3.5 million tonnes, with adequate food supply as the availability of rainfall and good weather favours farming activities across the country.

He said, “There are only three commodities that Tanzania imports from abroad which are wheat, cooking oil and sugar. However the government is strategising to make sure that we reduce the import levels by producing these commodities locally”.

Regarding the current rise of cooking oil prices in the country, the Permanent Secretary said it is highly influenced by the global price movements but in the next three years the government plans to develop processing industries that would ensure local production.

“We import nearly 90 percent of wheat, however it’s one of the first agenda for the newly-appointed minister (Professor Adolf Mkenda) as directed by the President,” said Mr Kusaya.

According to FAO, globally, the Food Price Index averaged 105 points in November this year, 3.9 percent up from October and 6.5 percent from a year earlier.

“The monthly increase was the sharpest since July 2012, putting the index at its highest level since December 2014,” it stated.

The increase can also be influenced by the growing world demand due to increasing world population and lower supplies partly due to adverse production shocks as a result of the unfavourable weather patterns.

The biggest rise was in the vegetable oil Price Index which gained a stunning 14.5 percent in the month, led by an ongoing rally in palm oil prices linked to sharp contractions in world inventory levels.

FAO Cereal Price Index rose 2.5 percent from October and averaged 19.9 percent higher than in November 2019, while Sugar Price Index rose 3.3 percent month-on-month. The FAO Dairy Price Index increased 0.9 percent to near an 18-month high, and the Meat Price Index rose 0.9 percent from October, but it is still 13.7 percent below its value a year ago.

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