News Column

Food Agency Mulls Stock Disposal After Bumper Harvest

July 8, 2014

Ashery Mkama

A BUMPER harvest has been realised this 2014/15 farming season, the reality that calls for the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to sell its reserve of 75,000 tonnes of grain to create space.

According to official records, Tanzania has a stock of grain amounting to 244,830 tonnes stored at NFRA warehouses. The government through NFRA purchased 219,377 tonnes of cereals.

More than 218,878 tonnes were maize and 499 tonnes of sorghum in the last season. As for this farming season (2014/15) NFRA intends to buy a total of 200,000 tonnes, including 190,000 of maize and 10,000 of rice.

Addressing reporters at the end of an inspection tour in Dar es Salaam recently, the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng. Christopher Chiza said market for the previous reserve would be secured both within and outside the country.

"About 50,000 tonnes will be sold in neighbouring countries, 20,000 within the country, while 5,000 will be purchased by government institutions," Eng. Chiza said, adding that revenue to be collected would be spent on purchasing crops for a new crop this season.

The minister says the newly adopted maize selling system would be transparent and involves serious vetting of crop buyers to minimize chances of complaints.

"Farmers must benefit from competitive crop prices. Bona fide buyers will be granted the permit to purchase maize from the warehouses that will be identified in the designated centers," the minister noted assuring the public that all farmers in the country are allowed to sell their food crops at any market.

Crop buying on credit, says the minister, would not be entertained. All will be required to make instant payment (cash) to the convenience of farmers.

Commenting on the pathetic practice of some middlemen who bought crops on credit, the minister has pledged close workrelations between his office and district council authorities as well as zonal food reserve officers to ascertain the credibility of traders and disallow verbal promises.

NFRA has already provided the supply of 37,016 tonnes of maize to the department of disaster management in the Prime Minister's Office to offset the likelihood of food shortage this year.

The agency also managed to sell 24,491 tonnes of maize to the World Food Program (WFP) and 4,477 tonnes for various institutions and Non-governmental Organisations (NGO's) countrywide in the same period.

Such grain supplies are availed to needy communities for example those in war raved Southern Sudan. Currently, the government has a total of 176,062 tonnes in its reserve, the consignment which is yet to be allocated insisting that the larger part of the reserve is stored in Songea, Rukwa, Mbeya and Iringa.

Tabling his ministry's 2014/2015 budget proposals in the National Assembly recently in Dodoma, Eng. Chiza noted that food excess included 354,015 tonnes of maize and 466,821 tonnes of rice.

Food security was brought about by good rains in most parts of the country, for the 2014/2015 season excess food tonnage was expected to increase while initial reports indicated that East African countries recorded good rainfall; therefore there was a possibility that Tanzania would not be selling food to them.

During 2013/2014 farming season, availability of farming implements was still problematic and insufficient, but assured the House that the government would increase production of quality seeds and encourage the private sector to invest in the procurement of farming implements.

Earlier, NFRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Charles Walwa mentioned some of the criteria which potential agents should be credited for.

These include convincing experience, registered for crop business, holding valid business license, have sufficient capital to cover at least 50 per cent of contract requirements, capable of selling to NFRA between 200 and 500 tonnes of grain annually among others.

NFRA has seven zonal offices countrywide which are strategically located in surplus and deficit areas, three of them operate in Southern part of the country, others are in Central, Eastern and Northern and Lake/Western parts of Tanzania.

It also owns 30 storage warehouses with a total storage capacity of 241,000 metric tonnes. "In order to reach the set target, the Agency plans to use combination of procurement methods as a way of addressing the operational challenges faced during the previous procurement seasons while at the same time minimizing operational costs and time of procurement," Mr Walwa noted.

The agency uses buying centers to procure its food stock where producers or traders bring their food grain at purchase centres and eventually being transported to the storage facilities, where it is inspected, cleaned, bagged in 90kg bags, stacked, fumigated and stored.

Inspection is done regularly to ensure that its condition remains within specifications and that it is not subject to pets and rodents attack while releases from the reserve are made to counteract food shortages determined from time to time by the Food Security Department of the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives in collaboration with the Prime Minister's Office.

According to NFRA CEO, in order to maintain the food reserve in good condition, it is necessary to periodically rotate the food stock which has not been required for the relief programmes and is still held in the reserves adding the procedure is for NFRA to hold stock for not more than three years, after which it will be difficult for the said stock to be stored in good condition.

The Agency targets to dispose of at least 30 per cent of the annual stock each year while part of the food stock is released to the market for the purpose of stabilizing supply of food commodities.

NFRA has set aside plans as a roadmap toward target attainment in order to execute its activities as to develop a Strategic Plan which covers a period of five years starting from the year 2011/2012 ending 2015/2016.

The agency also plans to expand an optimal level of food stocks that would be enough for the required national food reserve to match with increasing population; other food commodities to be stored part from maize as well as determine their storage requirements.

The agency aspires to raise the reserve of food stocks from 200,000 to 400,000 metric tonnes by 2016 due to the existing capacity not adequate to enable NFRA to realise its target.

It also plans to introduce the use of modern storage facilities and technology due to most of its equipment and tools being outdated hence resulted to high maintenance costs.

The NFRA is a Public Institution established as an executive agency under the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives for the purpose of guaranteeing national food security by addressing food shortage through procuring and releasing food stocks in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The vision of NFRA is to be an institution capable of responding timely to food shortages in Tanzania by 2020.

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Source: AllAfrica

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