Dar es Salaam — President John Magufuli yesterday issued a food security alert, cautioning that Africa and the whole world faced a hunger threat due to disruptions of agriculture following Covid-19 outbreak lockdowns.
Dr Magufuli issued his observation in Dodoma when he led ex-presidents to collectively lay the foundation stone for the construction of a new State House. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's widow, Maria, was there on behalf of Tanzania's first president. The others were ex-presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete.
Dr Magufuli said the hunger alert followed suspension of agricultural work in countries that imposed lockdown due to Covid-19 something that will affect food availability across the world.
He cautioned farmers against selling their crops arbitrarily, especially cereals, urging them to ensure they benefit from any decision to sell.
"We should preserve the food we have because the two years ahead will be tough in terms of food security. When the right time comes, ensure you get good prices," he advised.
He said the country has been blessed with good harvests, warning that since the government owned no farms, citizens should forget about getting free food from it.
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"People ink deals of buying rice while it is still in the farms in Shinyanga. You will be the ones left in great troubles once all the yields had been taken elsewhere. You'll then be forced to buy the same at a very high price," cautioned Dr Magufuli.
The warning comes at a time when East African states found themselves facing three major threats: Covid-19, desert locusts and torrential rains that caused floods, disturbing actual areas of focus in ensuring food security.
The National Food Security Bulletin for April 2020 issued by the Ministry of Agriculture also warns that Covid-19 would affect food security.
The ministry says the four pillars of food security and nutrition, namely: availability, access, utilisation and stability - may be affected by containment measures taken by different countries.
Tabling the 2020/21 budget in Parliament, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga said the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) planned to buy 300,000 tonnes of cereals including 277,000 tonnes of maize, 16,000 tonnes of rice and 7,000 tonnes of millet, making it the largest amount bought since 2016.
"Through the Cereals and Other Produce Board (CPB), 500,000 tonnes of cereals and 1.2 million tonnes of dry cassava will be bought and sold," said Mr Hasunga.
Speaking on the new State House, Dr Magufuli said the project was a duplicate of the Magogoni State House except that the new structures will have basement.
"Buildings erected 1977 to 1981 will not be demolished in order to preserve our history. We've preserved the bathroom and sitting room that Father of the Nation used, but this is after decorating them with beautiful stones," he said.
He also ordered release of Sh2 billion for the project after getting assurance from the head of National Service, Brigadier General Charles Mbuge, that the structures could be completed in the next four to five months.
He said Dodoma has qualified to be the country's capital after completion of the shifting of ministerial offices and respective staff as well as following a significant improvement in infrastructure including roads.
"After constructing 51 kilometres of roads, the process of identifying a contractor to build another 110 kilometres is in the final stages. The same applies to construction of the Msalato International Airport," he said.
Dr Magufuli said the government has completed construction of the Sh24.033-billion worth bus terminal and a market valued at Sh14.649 billion.
Also, he said provision of water, electricity and health services had improved a great deal.
Third phase President Mkapa said shifting to Dodoma was a process implemented by all past governments.
"Both the Father of the Nation and his successor Mzee Mwinyi played their part. My leadership ensured that Cabinet ministers and national security hold their meetings here," he said.
"Mr Kikwete completed building the Parliamentary building and constructed the University of Dodoma (Udom) and now Dr Magufuli has shifted ministries and the State House to the city," he noted.
For his part, Mr Kikwete explained how his government made plans of ensuring Dodoma attained the status of the country's capital, including having a proper State House.
"But, now we have a leader who delivers on plans," he said gesturing towards President Magufuli.
The project is being implemented by Suma JKT under the Tanzania Building Agency (TBA) consultancy, with the head of National Services Brigadier General Mbuge saying the project area was 9,340 square metres consisting of six wings.
Area set for the Chamwino State House is 8,473 hectares.
Earlier, the four ex-presidents were gifted with 25 peacocks each.