Southern Africa: Tanzania Unlikeliest Savior in SADC Maize Crunch

Dar — ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) - TANZANIA, which will export maize to some countries plagued by inclement weather and droughts, has emerged the sole shining light in the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) corn crisis.

The country is set to sell 700 000 tonnes of the staple maize food to Zimbabwe, which is enduring reduced yields after the Cyclone Idai ravaged crops when it made landfall in March. Tanzania is also exporting 1 million tonnes of maize to Kenya, which is experiencing yet another drought.

This represents the highest amount of corn Tanzania has exported in history.

For a country that has continually faced food shortages and hunger crisis over the years, the country of 60 million people is the unlikeliest of exporters.

"Sometimes the light comes from the most unusual places," noted Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa.

He said at first glance, it was inconceivable that Tanzania could export that much maize, with its yearly production set to be about 5,5 million tonnes, which is up by 2 percent from the previous season. This is against an annual consumption of 5,3 million tonnes.

However, the economist pointed out, "... but the thing is, Tanzania has had a really good harvest over the past few years."

Over this period, the country managed to accumulate large reserves with the 2019 maize stocks estimated at 944 000 tonnes.

"So, if one adds the ending-stocks data, with the expected harvest, it is conceivable that Tanzania could emerge as a saviour in this maize supply challenge in Southern and East Africa," Sihlobo added.

President John Magufuli recently stated Tanzania had a surplus during the 2018/19 farming season and felt obliged to assist fellow SADC member state, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's 2019 maize production is estimated at 800 000 tonnes, slightly more than a half lower than the previous year. Zimbabwe requires some 2 million tonnes annually.

Apart from Zimbabwe, Mozambique is another country facing imminent shortages after devastating cyclone Idai struck.

It was the epicentre of the disaster and was struck by another cyclone, Kenneth, later. The 2018/19 maize harvest for Mozambique could fall by 27 percent year-on-year to 1,8 million tonnes.

Droughts, which delayed plantings at the start of the 2019 season, also affected Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

A crisis was feared as South Africa and Zambia, who are typically the region's maize exporters, are expected to have tight supplies due to lower production in the 2018/19 production season.

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