Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states have granted Tanzania a three-year grace period to tax sugar imports from SADC states.
And, Tanzania believes that within the three-year period, the country will have developed the domestic capacity to meet sugar demand, getting rid of the tax-free sugar imports from SADC region.
Industry, Trade and Investment Minister Charles Mwijage told reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday that SADC member states have given Tanzania the timeframe to boost her sugar production capacity before directing other members not to export the product to Tanzania.
The regional bloc offered the grace period during its 37th Summit of Heads of State and Government in South Africa last weekend.
Mr Mwijage said the country has been seeking the regional bloc's approval to impose 25 per cent import tax on sugar from SADC states, against the protocol provisions. As SADC member, the country is supposed to allow products from its co-members to enter the domestic market tax-free.
"We have been asking SADC members to allow us to tax the imported sugar because in industrialisation agenda if we allow exempted sugar, our local industries will not grow," he clarified. The current annual demand of sugar stands at between 600,000 and 700,000 against the country's production capacity of 302,000 tonnes.
Tanzania therefore has been importing sugar from SADC countries to bridge the deficit. The minister was optimistic that within the given three years, the country will boost production because there is arable land for cultivation of sugarcane to produce two million tonnes.
"The good news is that there are investors who have been given land for sugarcane farming... and I welcome others to come," charged Minister Mwijage.
During the SADC summit, the new Chairperson, South African President Jacob Zuma pledged to drive forward the SADC industrialisation agenda, building on the remarkable progress by his predecessor, King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland.
President Zuma assumed the SADC Chair from King Mswati on August 19, 2017 at the opening of the 37th SADC Summit.
In his acceptance speech, President Zuma said South Africa would use its position to drive regional industrialisation and integration, through various potential growth paths, including agro-processing and mineral beneficiation.