Dodoma — Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has directed the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment as well as the ministry of Agriculture to immediately end the problem of sugar smuggling.
He also urged state organs to give the much-needed cooperation to Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and the Sugar Board of Tanzania (SBT) in the fight against the vice.
The directive was issued yesterday here in the House as the Premier was postponing the 12th meeting of the 11th Parliament, to November 6, 2018.
In the current parliamentary meeting, Mr Majaliwa said, the issue of sugar smuggling emerged, with some unscrupulous traders said to have been illegally flooding the market with a much cheaper product.
"As a matter of fact, I need the responsible authorities to do all in their power to make the problem, a thing of the past," said Mr Majaliwa.
"We need to create a fair playing ground for businesses for the prosperity of our local industries. This is only possible if we control smuggling." The four local major sugar companies are Mtibwa Sugar Estates, Kagera Sugar Ltd, Kilombero Sugar and TPC Ltd.
Mr Majaliwa's order comes hard on the heels of last week's heated debate during the Question and Answer session in the House over the position of the government in addressing smuggling.
Nkenge MP Diodorus Kamala (CCM) raised the issue, asking what efforts the government was putting in place to end the problem of sugar smuggling.
Mr Kamala lamented that smuggled sugar was threatening the survival of local sugar producers.
He was seconded by Mpwapa MP George Lubeleje (CCM) who said some producers decided not to take to the market their sugar following unfair competition from smugglers who were selling their product at a throwaway price.
Recently, the Tanzania Sugar Producers Association director, Mr Seif Seif, told reporters at a press conference that due to smuggled sugar in the market the four giant companies were unable to sell 80,000 tonnes of the product imported for domestic consumption between March and June, this year.
The amount represents 61.5 per cent of the 130,000 tonnes imported legally by the said companies to fill the gap as local production during the period stopped, to pave the way for sugarcane harvest.
"Sugar prices are high despite the fact that many tonnes are unnecessarily kept in the warehouses," lamented Mr Lubeleje, expounding that: "A kilogram of sugar is sold at around Sh2, 600 and Sh3, 000, which is unacceptable."
The concerns by a section of MPs prompted the Industry, Trade and Investment minister Charles Mwijage to state the government's position on the matter, saying already the state had formed a task force to investigate the matter.
The team, according to him, consists of members from the Fair Competition Commission, TFDA, TBS and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).
"I understand some unscrupulous traders are illegally using local brands to sell the illegally imported sugar. This is a serious economic crime," warned Mr Mwijage.
Stakeholders in their survey found some sugar packed in sacks bearing Tanzanian companies' logo, suggesting that the foreign sugar was brought into the country and repackaged as local brands to conceal it from authorities.
"This is a big blow to our local sugar processing companies that are already grappling with a myriad of market challenges. The government is working around the clock to put to task the culprits," warned Mr Mwijage.
Last year for-instance, some 13 tonnes of sugar were seized in Kagera Region by authorities as smugglers sought to illegally cross the border to Kenya with the consignment.
The product from the Kagera Sugar factory was switched and packed into bags from the South Nyanza Sugar Company Limited (Sony Sugar) of Kenya to try and dupe officials into thinking that the product originated from the neighboring country.
Also players in the industry pointed an accusing finger at dishonest traders, saying they have been taking to market the industrial sugar in the name of table sugar of which, local producers said was unhealthy for domestic consumption.