TFDA and TBS in the line of fire for bureaucracy

Tony Zakaria

Recently I was going to send something from Tanzania to my son in California that would remind him of the beautiful country he left behind called the land of Serengeti and Zanzibar.

He loves his cup of tea just like his daddy so off I went to the nearest supermarket and chose three varieties of Tanzanian teas namely Kilimanjaro, Chai Bora and African Pride. I know his mom loves coffee so I threw in a small tin of instant coffee, the one with the Africafe name.

I prefer Tancafe for its taste and name but there was none on the shelves. Then I marched happily to the so-called new post office at Azikiwe street in Dar es Salaam.

Lo and behold, the woman at the parcels desk referred me to a young inspection boy who told me things I did not wish to hear. Specifically he showed me a letter from the Tanzania food and drugs administration addressed to whoever, approving a request from a specific lady to send 100 gms each of a number of items including tea and ginger if I remember correctly. And she was sending to a friend or relative in Ukraine or Finland. I was shocked. Since when? Talk about bureaucracy.

The administrative cost of getting the TFDA approval from their offices in Mabibo or wherever in terms of time, transport, printing of letters, and getting an appointment with a government official would be much higher than the emotional value of the ‘zawadi’ from Tanzania.

I need an export permit (this is what it sounds like) to send a 50g tin of coffee and three packets of factorypacked and sealed tea bags? It means there must be a desk officer who scrutinises and approves or rejects requests to send thing to loved ones abroad.

Who put such a requirement? Visitors and residents buy local tea, coffee and other stuff for friends and family when they leave Tanzania all the time. What is going on? In the end I decided it was too much trouble so I just sent him a greeting card.

I will wait until I get a trip to America to share the aromatic Tan coffee. What a shame. Am betting others who have come across this new rule must have done the same like I did. Here is the thing.

If I want to give a can of Tabora honey, a packet of Kilimanjaro coffee and Mufindi tea to my friend in Chicago I cannot send it by parcel post until some bureaucrat in the food and drug authority approves of it? I am confused.

It may not seem like much coffee, tea, honey or sweetheart (if available for export) but these small gifts we send to loved ones abroad help to spread the word -read advertise - about Tanzania. And I can bet there are hundreds if not thousands of former residents of Tanzania and Tanzanian nationals abroad who yearn for our products.

When I, Tony Mushi Kimboka, solemnly buy coffee, tea, etc and send to loved ones, I am promoting Chair Bora and Africafe abroad instead of Lipton and Folgers brands, and am also protecting our local industries. If it is so important for TFDA to approve, then they should train and designate a desk officer at the international parcels desk.

This is the same FDA I have heard manufacturers and importers complain about. Apparently, if a drug say from India or UK is to be allowed in the country, then our bureaucrats must be allowed to visit and inspect the manufacturing premises in Glasgow or Bombay at the expense of the drug manufacturer.

This issue of registering every drug by manufacturer in Tanzania is not good policy. Why? For one, there are many manufacturers of the same drug and if we make it difficult by imposing restrictions that do not exist in other countries, we limit the availability of that drug and the cost of inspection is passed on to Tanzanian consumers.

Secondly, there are reputable international companies that certify in-country using international standards that X or Y drug manufacturer has good manufacturing practices, and tye drugs are made using British or American pharmacopoeia specifications. Are we to questioning their manufacturing processes or credibility? And how many drug factories can TFDA staff visit on planet Earth? In 2015 during the election campaigns, I talked to traders who buy and sell imported goods. They were really upset about the process of receiving and clearing goods from the port.

Their beef was with TFDA and TBS and they had vowed not to vote for any candidate from the CCM government. I believe like most traders they did not vote for president Magufuli.

However after seeing how the prime minister and the president worked tirelessly to clear the port of unnecessary hurdles, they gave the government a thumbs up for a job well done. However, they lament even now the administrative obstacles put in their path when they want to import common products. For example, to import a container of Ceres juice, Huggies pampers and Oppenheimer wine cartons from South Africa, they need prior approval from TFDA before making the order.

Eachitem needs a separate approval, and every consignment a fresh request for importation. TFDA charges fees upon receiving shipping documents, so another trip to TFDA. When the consignment arrives it will not be cleared without TBS certification. The bureau of standards requires a pre-delivery inspection certificate or else you pay a penalty and have the inspection done locally. Which means they can reject your consignment as substandard and condemn it for destruction.

In addition, importers/traders are required to certify that their consigment is free from harmful radiation. The radiation certification is done by an agency with offices in Arusha.

The TFDA offices are in Mabibo, TBS is somewhere else. You need a logistician just for permits. And the process is unnecessarily delayed for some importers while other traders seem to have an easy time getting approvals forthings in common use like sanitary pads, alcoholic drinks and fruit juices.

Why can’t all permits be obtained in one building, a one-stop shop? When goods are delayed at the port and clearing charges accummulate, government loses revenue because turnover is low. Consumers lose too because the extra charges are passed on to them. Let relevant authorities eliminate unnecessary permits and bureaucracies.

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