Govt appeals to traders to buy, export surplus maize

TANZANIA – The government has appealed to individual traders and agencies to buy and export surplus maize following bumper harvests of the grain experienced in the Southern Highland regions this year.

The government through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has this season targeted to purchase only 40,000 tonnes from the entire zone which comprises Ruvuma, Iringa, Njombe, Rukwa and Mbeya regions.

The appeal came amidst fears that harvested maize to the tune of 300,000 tonnes in Ruvuma Region alone may end up getting spoiled due to farmers’ lack of knowledge on the procedures needed to export the produce.

Karimu Mtambo, Director of Food at the Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives ministry told The Guardian in an interview that the government’s capacity to purchase maize from the farmers is limited.

Elaborating, he said, that the authority has set maize purchase target for every region for season whereby once it happens that a particular region has harvested more, the surplus has to be disposed of by other agency or  individuals.

“We need to be assisted by individual traders or institutions as NFRA has a  imited purchasing capacity for every region,” Mtambo said.

Mtambo further noted that the government assist farmers by searching for markets and provide them with information. He said that farmers from the regions that cultivate maize are informed on the availability of grain markets outside the country since the government has already uplifted the ban that was imposed in the past.

According to the official, already there is market for maize from Tanzania in Kenya, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the government has  signed agreement with those countries.

“Doors are open for local traders to buy and sell maize to neighbouring  countries … all the documents are available at our office, interested buyers  can visit us to get the procedures,” he clarified.

Mtambo said that Kenya alone needs 200,000 tonnes. He added that the price in  Kenya is 32,777 Kenyan Shilling per tone and that NFRA alone plans to sell  50,000 tonnes of maize to the East African leading economy.

Meanwhile, Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) chief  executive officer, Geoffrey Kirenga has attributed the good harvest to the  organisation’s efforts in ensuring that the farmers have access to quality  fertilisers and seeds. 

“We normally insist farmers to use fertilisers and quality seeds … there should  be a plan also to ensure that there are reliable markets for their produce,”  Kirenga said, adding that private investors can build warehouses to help the  farmers preserve their maize perfectly.

He said that farmers along the SAGCOT area can produce up to 5 million tonnes  of maize annually.

Ruvuma Region alone has the capacity of producing over 350,000 tonnes of the  grain, which is currently the main staple food, not only for most Tanzanians,  but also for many Eastern Africans.

Farmers in Ruvuma Region were last week quoted complaining that their maize  stocks in the thousands were about to be spoilt afater they failed to secure  markets.

The Chairman of Ruvuma Farmers Association, Tito Mbilinyi popularly known as  Mwilamba, said their maize had started to spoil as most of the farmers are not  able to handle tens of thousands of tonnes of maize in their warehouses for a  long time.

Meanwhile, early this month, people dwelling around the edges of Serengeti National Park were reported to be facing severe hunger after a flock of  elephants gruesomely hoofed their farms several times this year leading to  insufficient harvests. 

The shortage resulted into hiked maize price whereby a bucket was sold at 6,000/- compared to the normal 3,500/-.

August 19, 2014;

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