TANZANIA has started exporting food following the bumper harvest of crops recorded last year, the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Ms Sophia Kaduma, announced.
Last year, the country logged a harvest of 14.3 million tonnes of crops while the national annual food demand stands at 12.1 million tonnes.
The harvest created an excess of more than two million tonnes. Ms Kaduma said that so far the ministry has issued licences for exports of 23,000 tonnes of food to Kenya. About 6,000 tonnes have already been exported.
According to the PS, the National Food Reserves Agency (NFRA) this year made a historic stockpile of 214,000 tonnes. She said that the ministry was working hard to ensure that the reserve goes up to 400,000 tonnes in the coming years.
President Jakaya Kikwete had earlier directed the ministry to ensure that NFRA reserves climb up to 400,000 tonnes annually in order to bring about a stable and secure food storage.
The PS pointed out that the bumper harvests were greatly fuelled by the improvement in National Agricultural Inputs Voucher System (NAIVS) in the 2008/2009 farming season.
She noted that the system was embarked upon in a quest to increase productivity in food crops, including maize and paddy. The upshot was a robust increase in food productivity in the country.
The PS observed that some of successes of the system include improved productivity following an introduction of better farming methods unlike the situation that prevailed in the previous years.
"For example, maize production went up from 3.1 million tonnes per hectare in 2003/2004 to an average of 5.1 million tonnes in the year 2012/2013. Paddy production also increased from 688,000 tonnes per hectare in 2003/2004 to 1.3 million tonnes in 2012/2013 in areas where farmers depended on rains," she said.
She added that the move resulted in a food surplus, a situation that prompted the government to issue licences to traders who wanted to sell the food outside the country.
She noted that the national food balance increased from the 88 per cent recorded in 2003/2004 to 118 per cent in the year 2012/2013.
The PS also appealed to farmers to make use of the current rains fully by engaging in growing various food crops including paddy. She added that the government was ready to assist farmers in securing markets for their produce locally and internationally.