Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Engineer Christopher Chiza said the government is keen to ensure that quality of maize and other grain exports is of high standard to avoid spoiling the market.
“If there are delays in issuing export permits then its because of strict inspection of consignments to meet quality standards,” Eng Chiza told Business Standard last week while responding to fresh complaints from Rukwa Region’s grain farmers who say bureaucracy is delaying them from exporting their commodities to Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.
Eng Chiza pointed out that some greedy farmers compromise quality by mixing maize with other residues while packing in sacks; a trend he said does not only threatens consumers’ health but also destroy the country’s grain market. “We want to get rid of such practices which are detrimental to our future,” he warned while stressing that in principle, the government lifted a temporary grain export ban imposed last July.
He said the National Food Reserve Agency (NRFA) is also continuing to buy maize from local farmers in break basket regions of Iringa, Mbeya, Rukwa and Ruvuma which are popularly known as the ‘Big Four’. Rukwa produced over 1.7 million metric tons of grain last season which was more than doubled its annual food demand hence prompting farmers to seek markets in neighbouring countries where better prices are offered.
At their meeting a fortnight ago in Sumbawanga, grain farmers complained against delays in issuing of export permits by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives saying big businessmen are given priority. “Our farmers with 10 or 20 bags feel segregated because it’s taking too long to get permits,” said Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) Deputy Regional Chairman, Raymond Sonjoro.
Mr Sonjoro also said NFRA was also giving priority to big businessmen with trucks load of grain bags while smallholder farmers were being treated as second class citizens. “It is impossible for small or poor peasants with between 10 and 20 bags of maize to sell them at NFRA in the region as the priority is obviously given to the affluent big business people,” he alleged.