Distribution of food across regions currently hit by skyrocketing prices is about to start, the government announced in Dodoma, insisting that over 1.5 million metric tonnes (MT) of various food items are available for the undertaking.
The Prime Minister, Mr Kassim Majaliwa, insisted in the new national capital-designate that the country "has not reported any food shortage," pointing out that media reports to the contrary were being engineered by some politicians and business persons.
"We don't have food shortage. No one is authorised to declare food shortage but the government ... we have not declared so since all regions have reported availability of enough food," the premier said shortly after officially launching Air Tanzania's direct flights from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.
For the past two weeks, a section of the media has been reporting on the existence of acute food shortage but authorities maintained a tight stand recalling that there were more than three million metric tonnes of food surplus recorded in the last season.
Figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries before the government lifted ban on grain export last year projected that the country had 16.2 million tonnes against the food requirement of 13.2 million tonnes, hence a surplus of three million tonnes.
The harvest of cereals was estimated at 9.5 million tonnes against domestic consumption of 8.4 million tonnes. "Such surplus pushed MPs to demand the government to relax its policy on food exports. We allowed export of grains to the sum of 1.5 million tonnes ... we still have 1.5 million tonnes," the prime minister explained.
He admitted that the prices of food items in some regions were skyrocketing due to increased demand for the same in neighbouring DRC, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.
"There is high demand for food in neighbouring countries hence the increase in retail prices in the local markets," Mr Majaliwa noted, explaining the decision to distribute food items to control prices of the item in the market. He further reported that the government was in the meantime preparing to address the food shortage, which is projected to arise as a result of slowed rains this year.
The premier urged the general public and farmers in particular to plant fast-yielding grain seeds and tougher crops during the ongoing rains. "It is now raining in every region. This is good time that farmers should plant tougher crops and cross-bred crops, which get fit faster. We will offer new guidelines to respond to food shortages next year should drought persist," he reported.
Mr Majaliwa, however, directed the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries to issue a detailed statement regarding available food items in every region countrywide. Addressing a public rally in Simiyu last week, President John Magufuli strongly condemned unscrupulous businessmen, politicians and the media for creating artificial food shortage.
He said the same businessmen were propagating stories of artificial food shortage through the media so that they can capitalise on the situation and get exemption on food imports. Meanwhile in Dar es Salaam, the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, Dr Charles Tizeba, told journalists that there is enough food in the country and that the government is monitoring the situation from time to time.
He said his office has conducted a survey across the country, realising that there is no shortage of food although maize price in some areas has increased.
"We announced earlier that at least 43 councils had shortage of food because they recorded poor production the last season.
However, other areas did well and thus they have enough food," he further reported. He said during the last season, food production was 120 per cent while there was availability of 3 million metric tonnes of surplus food.