TANZANIA – There are fears that harvested maize to the tune of 300,000 tonnes may end up getting spoiled in Ruvuma Region alone due to farmers’ lack of knowledge on the procedures needed to export the produce.
Matters made worse, the main buyer, the National Food Reserve Agency (NRFA) – has targeted to purchase only 40,000 tonnes in the entire Southern Highlands Zone which comprise Ruvuma, Iringa, Njombe, Rukwa and Mbeya regions this season.
Ruvuma Region alone has the capacity of producing over 350,000 tonnes of the grain currently the main staple food, not only for most Tanzanians, but also for many Eastern Africans.
Speaking to The Guardian at his maize warehouse in Songea on Monday, Chairman of Ruvuma Farmers Association, Tito Mbilinyi, popularly known as Mwilamba, said tonnages of the maize have already started to rot as farmers are going without market to dispose them off.
During the last season, he said, the farmers remained with over 200,000 tonnes unsold and had nowhere else to take the staple food to, despite Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda announcing that the doors were open for farmers to sell the produce in the neighbouring countries.
“The government has told farmers that doors are open for them to sell their harvests in Kenya, but buyers have not announced any price for our maize. We are afraid if export to Kenya, we may end up selling our produce at a throw away price,” he said.
He added that the procedures for exporting grain still remain undisclosed to most farmers despite the fact that the export ban has been waived.
According to the chairman, the government has failed to buy the grain; hence there should be no need for it to impose bans on exporting the staple food.
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Even when the NRFA buys the grain, he said, the entire process takes too long before the farmers get their payments. This in a way impinges negatively on them in that it affects their living standards besides raising the prices of production, they observed.
“Regionally, Tanzania has a unique opportunity to be a major exporter of food crops, especially maize, to the neighbouring countries where there is a growing need for grains,” Mwilamba explained.
Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives ministry declared recently that the nation has surplus food, particularly maize in the NRFA.
According to USAID researchers, Tanzania has already become a large maize exporter and probably sold more than 100,000 tonnes of maize and over 70,000 tonnes of rice in 2011 to other countries. However, last year’s official records show that maize exports were less than 3,000 tonnes, while rice were 36,000 tonnes.
Some other reports say that most of the grains however still find their way out of the country through unofficial means.
Ruvuma Regional Commissioner Said Mwambunga told this paper yesterday that NRFA was given the target to purchase 50,000 tonnes of maize but it exceeded it. He said this year the agency has only been given the target to purchase 40,000 tonnes.
After the government opened the doors for farmers to take export their crops out of the country, there are no more restrictions, he said.
For his part, the Southern Highlands Zone NRFA Manager, Morgan Mwaipyana, said there is no any agent who has not been paid for the maize sold to the agency.
August 15, 2014; http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/index.php?l=70991