Legislators back NFRA’s sugar role

SOME Members of Parliament have backed the government on its plan to empower the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to import the commodity, stock it as food reserve and supply in the market during shortages.

Debating the 2024/2025 budget, the MPs overwhelmingly supported the government intention to allow NFRA to play a role of distributing sugar when there is shortage in the supplying chain in the country.

Tabling the government’s revenue collection and expenditure estimates for the 2024/25 fiscal year in Parliament last week, Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba proposed amendments to the Sugar Act to enable the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to purchase, stock and reserve sugar to address the sugar deficit and hoarding in the country.

Dr Nchemba explained that the decision to grant the NFRA new powers aims to ensure a constant supply of sugar in the country and to control hoarding by cartels, all without compromising the protection of local industries.

“NFRA regulations will also be amended by including sugar as part of food security,” he told the august House.

On Friday, the MPs supported the government move, saying if well implemented, it would help to end the problem of shortage of sugar and regular price hike of the sweetener.

A special seat Member of Parliament from the ruling CCM, Jacquiline Msongozi accused sugar manufacturers in Tanzania of deliberate delay in importing the commodity and thus cause the crisis.

Domestic sugar producers in Tanzania have been given exclusive rights to importation during the sugar shortage as protective measures against foreign competition.

Also read: https://dailynews.co.tz/nfra-to-be-empowered-to-buy-reserve-sugar/

“Sugar investors in Tanzania are deliberately delaying the importation of sugar so that it becomes scarce and thus increase prices. We cannot accept that.

We cannot be driven by seven individuals,” she said. Mtwara Rural Member of Parliament (CCM), Hassan Mtenga said some local dealers were not being honest in the importation and production process.

He said some officials were in Dodoma to create good environment for their business to persist in the way they like it to be.

Mr Mtenga said they would approve the bill of amendments of law to empower the NFRA to import sugar. “We are waiting for the bill of amendments so that we can approve it,” he said.

Muhambwe Member of Parliament (CCM), Dr Florence Samizi commended the Minister for Agriculture, Hussein Bashe and the Minister for Finance, Dr Nchemba for coming up with the proposal to involve NFRA in sugar importation. She said it was a brilliant idea that deserves a full support from all MPs.

“I commend you for coming up with the correct decision. I support the proposal for amendments of the law. They should bring it and we will approve,” she said.

Another Member of Parliament, Augustine Vuma (Kasulu South-CCM) said empowering NFRA will assure Tanzanians of availability of sugar at affordable prices. The MP said sugar scarcity was artificially orchestrated by few individuals for personal gains.

Mr Vuma, who is the Vice-Chairman of Public Investments Committee, said they had met the Sugar Board of Tanzania and realised there were problems in the sugar importation arrangement that involve sugar manufacturers.

“We saw there were problems and realised we had to make changes in the importation processes,” he noted.

The government approved the importation of over 100,000 tonnes of sugar early this year to ease acute shortage of the commodity that caused prices to soar.

The shortage was blamed on heavy rains at the end of last year but there were allegations of hoarding and pricefixing by industrial cartels.

The sugar market in Tanzania is an oligopoly by nature dominated by seven domestic producers who, according to the law, have exclusive rights to importation during the sugar shortage.

However, the government has proposed legal amendments to empower the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to buy, stock and reserve sugar as a national food reserve and be supplied in the domestic market during shortages.

The measure is intended to ensure constant availability of sugar in the market and address hoardings by manufacturers without compromising protection of local industries.

The government will also amend the NFRA regulations by including sugar as part of food security.

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