THE government has approved the release of some 40,000 tonnes of maize from the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to help lower skyrocketing prices of maize flour.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food security and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza, told reporters in Dar es Salaam that 20,000 tonnes were to be sold between this month (January) and February and other 20,000 would be sold from March.
"Maize will be sold to agents at a lower price of only 450/- per kilogramme, deliberately to make the traders also sell the flour to consumers at a reasonable price," Mr Chiza said. The Minister said that all regions were demanded to appoint reliable milling agents who will eventually sell the flour to consumers all over the country at a reasonable cost.
He noted that regions had already outlined indicative prices for maize flour that is between 750/- and 900/- depending on the area, cautioning that exceeding that rate would mean dishonesty and won't be tolerated.
NFRA approved the sale of 1,100 tonnes of maize to Arusha; Dodoma (400 tonnes); Kilimanjaro (400 tonnes); Lindi (400 tonnes); Mara (900 tonnes); Manyara (800 tonnes); Morogoro (400 tonnes); Mwanza (2,500 tonnes); Shinyanga (1,029 tonnes); Singida (500 tonnes); Tabora (1,000 tonnes); Tanga (700 tonnes); Mtwara (600 tonnes); Coast (700 tonnes); Simiyu (1,971 tonnes) and Dar es Salaam (6,400 tonnes).
Mr Chiza directed all agents to be involved in the exercise to ensure they timely purchase the maize, adding that delays could lead to nullification of their licences. The minister said the government's decision to release maize from its stock followed a food prices analysis conducted in November last year which showed that the prices of the cereal were soaring in most cities and big towns.
As of yesterday, 127 milling agents were already licensed to purchase about 12,520 tonnes of maize from NFRA. Mr Chiza also gave a seven-day ultimatum to all regions that have not communicated to NFRA names of milling agents licensed for the exercise.
"Eleven out of 16 earmarked regions had submitted names of milling agents to NFRA by January 14. Regions that have not yet submitted list of their agents must do so within seven days," he noted. He also said that in December last year consumers were forced to buy a kilo of maize flour for between 1,100/- and 1,500/- which he said was too much for an ordinary Tanzanian.
The minister said that following food shortage that hit the country, the government through disaster management committee in October last year released relief food amounting to 28,350 tonnes to 12 regions that were badly hit by hunger.
Regions that benefited from the relief food are Arusha, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Mara, Manyara, Morogoro, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora and Tanga. Mr Chiza assured wananchi that no one was going to die of hunger as the government still has sufficient food in its stock.