THE government has agreed to sell to Kenya some 201,800 metric tonnes of maize, and the first batch of 50,000 tonnes from the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) will be released early next month.
Briefing journalists in Dar es Salaam on Friday at the end of his two-day work visit to Nairobi where he had audience with his Kenyan counterpart Mr Felix Kosgei, the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng. Christopher Chiza said relevant authorities are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Arusha soon for implementation of the agreement.
"Last season (2013/14), Tanzania recorded 118 per cent Self Sufficiency Ratio (SSR) after harvesting 5.3 million tonnes of maize and 1.3 million tonnes of rice.
Information gathered from across the regions recently indicates that this year as well, another bumper harvest will be recorded possibly with much higher self sufficiency ratio," Chiza explained.
He added that there was no reason to turn down the request by a neighbour (Kenya) but the trade will be closely monitored to make sure that local farmers benefit as well.
Mr Chiza indicated that members of the business community he was accompanied were still in Nairobi to work on some of the basic details. The first consignment of maize from NFRA worth 31bn/-, the minister added, will be delivered to Kenya by Tanzania's private sector in the near future.
However, the minister does not play down chances for illegal cross-border trade of grain but insisted that authorities on both sides had agreed to work closely to make sure that proper revenue collection procedures were observed as efforts to establish a zonal market near Himo area in Kilimanjaro region were underway.
It was revealed that maize from Tanzania has always been of the acceptable quality and preferred in the East African market. The storage capacity of NFRA is 240,000 metric tonnes and plans are underway to expand the holding capacity to 400,000 metric tonnes. For the first time, said the minister, NFRA will buy 10,000 metric tonnes of rice from the farmers.
The most preferred and aromatic types of rice are locally known as sindano, tule na bwana, shingo ya mwali, nikamate sawa among others. Farmers will be assisted to secure proper markets.
Commenting on the need to strengthen the South-South Cooperation initiative and expansion of the regional market, Eng Chiza spoke about a brief meeting with the South Sudan Ambassador to Kenya who wished to see establishment of similar trade links to help offset famine in his country.
"The state of instability in South Sudan undermined agricultural activities despite the fertile land and reasonable rainfalls. People in this part of the world also need the supply of grain.
In the long run Tanzania and Sudan will extend agro-technical cooperation that includes training of Sudanese extension officers in the country and perhaps deployment of our officers (extension) to Sudan.
According to Kenyan authorities, the need to procure maize from Tanzania was to lower the maize prices that have been going up in the recent months. Maize flour is a staple food for many Kenyans.