TANZANIA is Africa's third strongest exporter of food commodities to the rest of the world. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ranks the country third after Guinea and Mauritania in a ratio of basic food balance to total merchandise exports index published recently.
As expected, the East African nation leads the EAC region with Burundi named as the country with the most severe import dependence of food commodities.
Tanzania's food crop production reached 9.3 million tonnes in 2018/19, compared to 9.7 million tonnes 2014/15 (-4 per cent) with the country's main staple crops being maize, sorghum, millet, rice, wheat, beans, cassava, potatoes, and bananas. Tanzania consumes 90 per cent of its maize production and exports the rest mainly to Kenya (8 per cent) as the rest Somalia, Burundi, South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda share the remaining 2 per cent.
Crop exports accounted for 1.9tri/- ($830million), which equates to nine per cent of the total value of Tanzania's exports in 2019, compared to 1.8tri/- (793million) in 2015, representing an increase of 5 per cent.
The expansion of global trade has helped to, at least in part, move food from where it can be produced to where it is needed. But this has also come with downsides, according to the index.
"Many developing countries have increased their specialisation in export crops at the expense of staple foods for domestic consumption, making them net food importers with the vulnerabilities this implies," it says.
In Africa, a continent with severe food insecurity challenges, most food comes from abroad. Between 2016 and 2018, about 85 per cent of food was imported from outside the continent.
The index further projects that even as its population grows; net food imports to Africa are expected to triple by 2025 as undernourishment grows by one-third.
It also warned that conflict and war, weather extremes and economic shocks, including those induced by Covid-19, were the primary drivers of food insecurity.
It called for banning export restrictions on essential foodstuffs for countries facing food deficit, and on food aid to countries in emergency situations as well as increase financial and technical support to foster agricultural productivity in developing countries in order to address food security, especially in least developed countries and netfood importing developing countries.