Dar es Salaam — President John Magufuli explained yesterday how sugar smuggling was causing havoc among East African Community (EAC) member states.
Speaking during a press briefing at State House, Dar es Salaam, after holding talks with his Ugandan counterpart, Mr Yoweri Museveni, Dr Magufuli said the problem must be addressed as a matter of urgency if local industries and jobs were to be protected.
Tanzania caused an uproar among Ugandan traders when it slapped 25 per cent tax on sugar imports from Uganda. President Magufuli yesterday defended the decision, saying the sugar was not produced in Uganda, but was smuggled from outside the region.
"We had a similar problem with sugar imports from Zanzibar. Demand for sugar in Zanzibar is 20,000 tonnes, the production capacity of Zanzibar-based industries is 4,000, but there were some traders who were exporting sugar to Tanzania Mainland from Zanzibar. Where was it coming from?" he queried.
He added: "Last year, a substantial amount of sugar was smuggled into Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It was being repacked and sold as locally produced sugar. It is not only Uganda that was affected. We also banned sugar from Kenya after it was revealed that some of it contained harmful substances."
President Magufuli said more than 20 lorries laden with sugar were seized at Sirari on Tanzania's border with Kenya in the last two days as they were about to enter the country illegally.
He said the region should end sugar smuggling once and for all, adding that Tanzania and Uganda had already started working on the issue with ministers from the two countries meeting recently in the border town of Mutukula.
"The two countries' joint commission should also meet regularly to sort out some of these problems."
Meanwhile, President Museveni yesterday briefed Dr Magufuli on the 2018 Brics summit held recently in South Africa. Brics is an association of five major emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
President Museveni attended the summit as an invited guest in his capacity as the chairman of the EAC Heads of State Summit. The Brics summit took place from July 25 to 27 July in Johannesburg.
Mr Museveni said he assured the summit that returns on investments within the EAC bloc would be much higher than those from Europe and Asia.
"I invited them to invest in our region as we have many opportunities in the bloc. I came here specifically to brief President Magufuli about the Brics summit that I attended in Johannesburg, South Africa," he said.
President Museveni added that he was happy about the initiative Tanzania was taking to improve transport in the region, including the revival of the Central Railway, which transports cargo to Mwanza before it is ferried on Lake Victoria to Jinja in Uganda.
"In Uganda, we are reviving our national airline carrier. I also asked the Chinese President (Xi Jinping) to allow us to land in China. This will enable us to bring more tourists into the region," he added.