9 October 2012

Tanzania: Cross Border Smuggling of Cereals Must End


LATEST statistics show that cross-border trade has been on the increase in the past few years with the government coffers getting almost nothing from such transactions.

A report by Cross Border Trade Bulletin 2001, a market analysis publication, indicates that between October and December last year, over 50,000 tonnes of cereals, or 39 per cent of the food traded in the East African region were sourced from Tanzania through illegal channels commonly known as "panya" routes.

The report shows that the Namanga border market between Kenya and Tanzania was the most notorious with the highest volume of trade of about 80 per cent of the smuggled food. Other border towns which are notorious for smuggling of cereals include Kasumulu (Mbeya) and Holili (Kilimanjaro).

This shows that Tanzania still commands the agriculture sector in the region due to its arable land and favourable climatic conditions. However, proceeds from such business don't reach the government coffers. This is because some markets in the neighbouring countries fetch better prices; a factor that fuels smuggling.

From such malpractice which the government has been fighting for the past 50 years, it is evident that smuggling will never stop if prices are lower than those offered in the neighbouring countries. Persistent droughts in Southern Somalia and Kenya as well as low food production in South Sudan are also other factors that will always keep prices of cereals high in the region.

It is against this backdrop that the government should review its ban on grain exports or offer an alternative solution so that such business is conducted in designated areas to discourage smuggling.

Construction of the international cereals market in Himo, a town located a few kilometres from the Kenya-Tanzania border, should be a trendsetter towards achieving goals in fighting cross border smuggling and ultimately beef up the government coffers. Chasing smugglers has never been an easy task.

In fact; no tangible result has ever been recorded in the history of this country as far as cross border smuggling is concerned. So, policy makers must fully support this idea, which will not only benefit Tanzanian poor peasant farmers but also raise the country's bar as a grain exporter in the region.

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