Dodoma — PRIME Minister Kassim Majaliwa yesterday issued a threeday ultimatum to industrialists and traders to release all edible oil and sugar stocks in their warehouses, blaming some unscrupulous manufacturers and dealers for hording the commodities in order to hike prices.
The premier explained here yesterday evening that after expiry of the ultimatum, the government would conduct inspections at all warehouses and factories to pin down traders who have been hoarding the vital consumables.
We cannot let this matter fizzle out easily, this is a deliberate plan to subject Tanzanians to suffering," Mr Majaliwa stated in the august House when responding to queries raised by parliamentarians over shortage of the two commodities.
The PM explained further that the government had established that there were adequate stocks of edible oil and sugar locally but some factory owners and dealers were hording the products to hike their prices in the local market.
Over the past few days, lawmakers here from across the political divide have been tasking the government to explain the scarcity of the commodities which culminated in price increases countrywide.
National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai on Tuesday told the Government to address the crisis and present a statement before the Parliament by yesterday. Delivering a statement in the National Assembly yesterday, Premier Majaliwa said the shortage seemed to be deliberately created with the aim of creating hostility between the public and their government. "
I am giving three days from tomorrow, for all edible oil in stores to be released and be available in the market so that the people don't buy them at high prices because we have enough stocks," he said, adding that from Sunday,"Hoarding the oil in the stores sets us at loggerheads with the citizens; we are not ready for that," he explained emphatically.
Earlier, Industry, Trade and Investment Minister Charles Mwijage told the National Assembly that the country's monthly demand of the oil was 28,000 tonnes against the importation of over 30,000 tonnes.
In March, he explained, the country imported 32,210 tonnes of oil. Total stock of the oil imported during the past three months of January, February and March was 68,902 tonnes.
Apart from that, the crude oil awaiting offloading at the Dar es Salaam Port is 46,000 tonnes, and procedures to offload them had already started. On Tuesday, Speaker Ndugai directed government institutions involved in the edible oil dispute to discuss measures to resolve the crisis which had caused much panic in the domestic market.
A spot survey by 'Daily News' established the retail price for 20-litre cooking oil had skyrocketed from 50,000/- to over 70,000/- in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, respectively. This, according to Mr Ndugai, had a greater implication to majority Tanzanians who were the taxpayers and the last consumers of the product.
Two oil tankers had initially been denied entry and remained at the port over failure by custom officers to charge import tax for two weeks at least for now. The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), the Office of the Chief Government Chemist and the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) had failed to reach a consensus on the specific type of oil cargo the tankers were carrying.
While TRA maintained that the tankers were carrying semi-refined oil which attracted 15 per cent tax levy, laboratory examinations results from the office of the chief government chemist and the TBS indicated that the imported oil was the crude variety, which attracts a 10 per cent tax charge.
About 70 per cent of the cooking oil used in the country is imported. Tanzania's capacity to produce oil from sunflower, sesame, cotton and ground nuts meets only 30 per cent of the local demand. According to the minister there are 40,000 tonnes of edible oil at the Dar es Salaam Port and discussions were ongoing between his team from the ministry as well as those from the revenue authority.