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The aggregate national food availability in Tanzania is not of plenty, but that of a critical balance between productions and needs. The development of agriculture has been an important objective of the government.
The focus has been producing more food to enhance food security and alleviate poverty, with the ultimate goal of becoming self-sufficient in basic food requirements, but not thinking of improving the standards.
Currently many of the regions are storing the grains below standard which has been causing a lot of harm to the people. The government has to think of improving the standard of grain reserves since plans of having global grain reserves are underway and the government has been urged to increase the number of grain reserves so that food could be moved to the affected areas easily in case of serious crisis.
I had a talk with the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) Director General Shenggen Fan when l attended the conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health that was held at New Delhi India and he said that adding the number of grain reserves in the country and improving the standards it will stabilise high food price during any crisis.
“High price food during any crisis is caused by not having enough food in the reserves and at the same time the food cannot be moved easily to the affected areas because of poor infrastructure; the moment the two areas are improved there won’t be any problem during crisis ,” Fan explained
“Plans are underway to start the global grain reserve but currently we are convincing the Tanzania government to improve the standard of grain reserves and increase the number so that more food will be reserved to be any enough for all,” he said.
Fan said that although it will be a difficult task to have a global grain reserve but it will work hand in hand with governments to achieve the goal.
The director general also advised the country to have a food network with its neighboring countries so that in case one country has a food crisis, another country will be help to assist.
“ Tanzania and other neighbouring countries should form a food network whereby in case one faces a crisis, it will get assistance,” he noted.
It was reported that there are visible signs that the global food supply chain is stretched to the limit, and according to analysts, this puts pressures on Tanzania ’s food supply situation even as the government has sought to allay the fears.
The global food crisis is already linked to recent unrests in North African countries, and there are fears that further deterioration of the situation could spark a repeat of the deadly riots that broke out in 2008 around the world.
Early this month Tunisia ‘s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country after he failed to quell deadly riots, even after slashing prices on food staples.
Prices of grains and other farm products in the world began to rise late last year after poor harvests recorded in Canada , Russia and Ukraine , tightened global supplies. more recently, hot and dry weather in South America has cut production in Argentina , a major soybean exporter, as floods sweeping across Australia this month wiped out much of that country’s wheat crop.
Earlier this month, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said its food price index jumped 32 per cent in the second half of 2010, well above the forecast.
Prices rose again last week after the US Department of Agriculture cut back its already tight estimate of grain inventories.
Estimated reserves of maize were cut to about half the amount in storage at the start of the 2010 harvest; while soybean stocks were at the lowest level in three decades, partly due to large purchases by China .
The ratio of stocks to demand was expected to fall later this year to "levels unseen since the mid-1970s," the agency said.
However, the local situation has not deteriorated as much even though President Jakaya Kikwete warned during his end of the year address in December that the government could not exactly forecast results for 2011 amid poor rainfall in food-rich areas.
Latest statistics from the Bank of Tanzania show that the stock of maize and sorghum at the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) stood at 138,964 metric tonnes by September last year. The amount, the largest held by NFRA since January 2008, puts the country in a relatively comfortable position in the short term.
President Kikwete also revealed that the government had spent over Sh60bn to raise the national reserve to a strong 200,000 tonnes with projections of attaining the 400,000 by 2015.
The ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFSC) officials say NFRA has already been beefed up to 206,245 metric tonnes as part of preparations for any future emergency food needs.
Angel Navuri is a journalist,
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