Tanzania issues ban of grain and maize exports


DODOMA, Tanzania (AlertNet) – Facing threats to its own food security at a time when famine is afflicting neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania this year issued an early six-month ban on non-governmental exports of grain and maize.

Extreme weather and unpredictable rainfall, believed to be associated with climate change, are affecting crops around the world, and some governments have limited trading of food in response. Last year, Russia banned wheat exports after a drought in that country.

In Tanzania, export restrictions – normally made each year – have come early this year as a result of rising demand from for food across its borders, and growing concerns about hunger within the country.

In recent years, bans on food exports by district and regional authorities have occurred around the month of August, when the size of the harvest is known and food shortages within the country and in neighbouring countries have been assessed.

This year’s ban came in July, before the harvest, and was issued in parliament by Jumanne Maghembre, the country’s minister for agriculture, food security and co-operatives.


The ban affects small-scale farmers who sell some of their crop surplus directly across the border.

The government will continue to trade food with other countries, but says the ban aims to prevent the widespread smuggling of cereals onto the black market in Kenya.

“The measure aims to give the government enough time to assess food availability, hence ensuring our food security,” Maghembe said.

As food crises in neighbouring countries worsen, districts in 16 of Tanzania’s 29 regions have declared food shortages because of poor rains and drought, including the major food producing regions of Mbeya and Iringa in the country’s southern highlands.

“Rain falls at the time where it was not expected to rain, (and) there is a severe shortage of rain during the planting season,” complained farmer Leneth Motto of Kilolo district in Iringa region, about 340 miles (550 km) southwest of Dar es Salaam, the country’s capital.

Motto believes that the unpredictable rains experienced during the last farming season and the drying up of some streams are due to climate change.

Government projections for cereal production in 2010-11 are for 6.78 million tonnes, 410,000 tonnes less than the national demand. This contrasts with a cereals surplus of 300 tonnes in 2009-10.

Although a significant surplus of non-cereal food is expected this year, most Tanzanians depend on cereals as their staple food, so any deficit is considered a food shortage.


Maghembe, the agriculture minister, said that food shortages and the threat of famine in neighbouring countries have stimulated the smuggling of food, particularly cereals, across the border.

The price of maize in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, skyrocketed from 334,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $206) per tonne in January of this year to 744,000 shillings ($458) by June, an increase of 120 percent, according to the minister. He said that Kenya had already declared a drop of 1.3 million tonnes in food production.

In Iyula village in Mbeya region, about 540 miles (860 km) southwest of Dar es Salaam, maize sells for at most 250,000 shillings (about $154) per tonne at times of peak demand, and considerably less during the harvest season.

Watson Kapale, a farmer in Iyula village, said that the cost of unsubsidised fertilisers for crops meant that many farmers made a loss selling their maize in local markets, driving them to sell to foreign markets, mostly within East and Central Africa.

With the ban in place, some are now smuggling food across the country’s border, primarily to Kenya. 

Some members of the Tanzanian Parliament, particularly from the major maize producing region of Rukwa, opposed the government’s export ban, saying it  discriminates against peasant farmers who are largely unsupported by the government.

The government’s National Food Reserve Agency pays farmers 350,000 shillings ($215) per tonne of cereal, a higher price than at rural markets, but it plans to buy only 200,000 tonnes this year, just under 3 percent of total production.

However, the Tanzania Minister for East African Co-operation, Samwel Sitta, defended the grain export ban, saying it does not violate the agreement reached by East African Community member states on a common market, since the ban is on food smuggling rather than legal trade. 

The government urged neighbouring countries in need of food to directly deal with it under international legal arrangements instead of depending on illegal smuggling operations.

Somalia recently became the first famine-hit country in the Horn of Africa to make an application for grain to the Tanzanian government and was provided with 300 tonnes of maize. 

Source- http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/tanzania-issues-early-ban-on-food-exports



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