AS we can recall, last year on 28–30 August, 2019, climate scientists from all countries in the SADC region, gathered in Luanda, Angola, under the auspices of Southern African Regional Outlook Forum (SARCOF), to reflect on the development of weather prediction capacities of member countries.
The outlook looked uplifting as it revealed that the 2019/20 agricultural season in the parts of Southern Africa stands to receive high rainfall (normal to above normal) in the first and second half of the season.
By ‘first half of the season’ it literally meant the last quarter of 2019 (October, November and December) and ‘second half of the season’meant first quarter of 2020 (January, February and March).
It went on to describe that Tanzania will have slight difference in rains in different regions. Northern Tanzania was projected to receive normal–to–above rainfall whereas Southern Tanzania would get normal–to –below in the last quarter of 2019.
Also, most part of Tanzania in the first quarter of 2020 (second half of the season) was predicted to receive normal – to –above rainfall, in the central and southern part of the country.
However, during the same period the eastern half of Tanzania will get normal – to – below normal rainfall. Now, Tanzania has got two major types of seasons that guides sowing, growing and harvesting of crops.
The seasons are; Masika–mostly suitable for crops planted in Northern, North-eastern and Coastal and Msimu– suitable for crops planted in Central and Southern parts of the country.
The main course taken by a typical Tanzanian is mainly composed by maize and dry beans. Fortunately, these commodities are produced in areas which have been vouched to receive the Msimu high rainfall in the first and second quarter of the production season.
As for maize, of the top five regions three regions–Ruvuma, Mbeya and Songwe– are located in southern cluster graced with normal– to–above rainfall.
Other regions like, Rukwa, Njombe and Iringa, also great contributors of food basket in the country, taking fifth, seventh and tenth positions in production capacities, are located in the same cluster.
On the side of dry beans, Northern hemisphere takes the lead, most especially in the regions of Kigoma and Kagera.
This cluster too was projected to receive fair Masika rains, which is not going to be bad considering the agronomic requirements of the crops.
These developments provides with us a great assurance that we are far from experiencing the 2017 dry spell that ravaged not only Tanzania but an entire region.
At least we will not go hungry this year. On the business point of view, all other remaining constant, traders are not advised to anticipate too much from this year’s sales because our neighbouring countries may not need too much from us.
Last year’s price was super–hyped because of Zimbabwe’s abnormal demand which was driven by flood that curtailed its production.
Unless Zim is flooded again, it must have created internal self– sufficiency mechanisms to weather the storms of food insufficiency by growing from within.
This analysis excludes Kenya whose geographic position (its northern land being majorly composed of desert) renders it with little internal capacity to be self –reliant.
Uganda, which usually gets annual surplus of 3 million tons of maize is anticipated to be our great competitor in the region, especially in the Kenyan market.
But we will get a superb advantage over Uganda in supplying Rwanda with maize and dry beans this very year because Katuna/Gatuna border issue between Uganda and Rwanda is yet to be resolved. Similar way with Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since our major harvest of these produce begins in June, 2020, this analysis assumes that the Coronavirus disease (COVID – 19) shock will be under control, so the lockdown that has been imposed in Uganda and Rwanda and partly in Kenya will be inexistent.
These changes are going to affect entire value chains actors, that is, from a farmer to the consumer.
So this should serve as a wake – up call for the Ministry of Agriculture to design proper mechanism that will help regulate prices but also putting money at disposal for National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to buy enough maize.
NFRA entrance will play two major roles, storage of food and price stabilisation.