Dar es Salaam — The Iringa Food and Logistics Company and the Dar es Salaam-based Shelys Pharmaceuticals have grounded their manufacturing operations amid an acute shortage of industrial sugar.
In the event, about 190 employees of the two firms are likely to lose their jobs, according to the director general of the Iringa firm, Mr Arif Ibrahim, and the procurement executive of the pharmaceutical firm, James John.
Speaking in separate interviews with The Citizen, the two put the blame on the Sugar Board of Tanzania (SBT) for failing to issue sugar import permits as required.
However, the board was apparently not in a position to comment on the matter when they were contacted by The Citizen.
Mr Ibrahim said that his company - which is in the business of manufacturing confectioneries, including sweets and chocolates - has not been operating for almost a week now. Closure of the factory is likely to allow their competitors from Kenya and elsewhere to penetrate the Tanzanian market.
"I have been forced to close the factory, putting the fate of 70 jobs at stake," Mr Ibrahim revealed - noting that he needs between 25 and 50 tonnes of sugar to resume operations.
In the event, he is able to pay his employees for only one month, before sending them packing.
"I have decided to incur the loss of one month's salaries for the workers. Unless and until my consignment (is cleared out of Customs control at the port) soonest, I will have to send them home so that I don't deplete my capital," Mr Ibrahim explained.
The firm's average monthly production stands at between 40 and 50 tonnes - and its average consumption of industrial sugar stands at 200 tonnes a year.
Last December, the company was forced to reduce production by up to 60 per cent, Mr Ibrahim said, adding that he could not afford to use domestic sugar as a substitute because of its inordinately high price, which went up to Sh115,000 for a 50-kilo bag.
With regard to Shelys Pharmaceuticals, Mr John revealed that the company's annual production of human medicines is in the region of approximately 16.19 million bottles of syrup and 'dry syrup,' as well as 3.5 million boxes of tablets.
He lamented that the company's consignment of 300 tonnes of industrial sugar has been stranded at Dar es Salaam Port since last November.
"Our remaining stock of the commodity today is 67.3kg only - and we had to stop production on February 7 this year for lack of industrial sugar," he lamented.
Efforts by The Citizen to extract comments on the matter from the minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Charles Mwijage, since last Friday have proved futile, following the minster's tight work schedule.