Food Shortages and Famine in Africa

The Citizen reports that Tanzania has no food for exports as famine looms large.

(emphasis mine) [my comment]

No more food exports as famine looms large
By Beatus Kagashe

With some 240,000 people in immediate need of relief food, and the situation [in Tanzania] becoming increasingly precarious, the Government yesterday ruled out the possibility of exporting any grains.

The ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives spokesperson, Mr Richard Kasuga, told The Citizen in an interview in Dar es Salaam that
the country [Tanzania] did not have enough food for its own citizens' consumption and could, therefore, not bail out its equally needy neighbors.

He named the most vulnerable regions as Manyara, Coast, Tanga and Morogoro, where the Government would have to distribute food to the poor free of charge.

"We have no surplus food to sell out of the country. The food we have is reserved for Tanzanians who are also faced with hunger and starvation," said Mr Kasuga, noting that the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) had been badly strained.

Early this week,
Kenya announced that it would have to import maize from its immediate neighbours, Tanzania and Uganda, to bridge a shortfall, which has left some 10 million of its people in danger of starvation.

Kenya's food production fell significantly last year following the post-election violence, in which more than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their farms in the country's grain basket of Rift Valley.

The country managed to produce only about 2.43 million tonnes of food during the last harvest season against its national consumption of 3.15 million tonnes.

Mr Kasuga said: "The more than 240,500 people countrywide are likely to be food insecure and they need more than 7,182 tonnes of food immediately."

More than 12,027 people among those facing food shortages, he added, needed 359 tonnes of relief food as they could not afford to buy food even at the prevailing low prices. Some 401 tonnes of cereals would also have to be distributed in those areas as seeds for the next planting season.

According to the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), up to last December, the country had some 129,253,379 tonnes of cereals set aside for emergency.

Security, Mr Kasuga said, had been intensified at the border posts to monitor and prevent the export of food.

"We have strengthened security at all the border posts. We have also stopped issuing permits for the sale of food out of the country until the situation normalises."

The ministry of Agriculture, the official said, had not received any requests from neighbouring countries intending to buy food from Tanzania.

"However, even if such an appeal is sent now, there is no way Tanzania can sell food. We are taking all the necessary steps to ensure that even individuals do not export any food."

"Food can only be exported if we are assured that we have enough stocks.
We want to avoid a situation where we will be forced to buy food from abroad at exorbitant prices after exhausting our own stocks," he said.

The official appealed to farmers to reserve enough food for their own use and avoid being lured by middlemen "who will come to you with promises to buy the cereals at much higher prices".

The looming food insecurity was forecast in the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) Economic Review for December, which quoted the findings of research conducted by the Agriculture ministry' s Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) Department last September.

The BoT report noted that
due to declining food reserves, wholesale prices of major food crops had continued to increase in November compared to the same period a year before.

According to the central bank, the NFRA had 122,209 tonnes of maize and sorghum in November, representing an increase of 6.8 per cent, from 114,464 tonnes held the previous month.

"However, on an annual basis, the stocks were 14.3 per cent lower than the 142,624 tonnes recorded in November 2007, due to low purchases caused by delayed disbursement of funds," the report says.

As a result,
month-to-month food inflation increased to 3.1 per cent last November from one per cent in October.

The report pointed out that increases in prices were recorded in cereal products, cassava, potatoes, vegetables and meat.

the annual food inflation increased to 16.3 per cent in November 2008, from 14.6 per cent recorded in October 2008. The 12-month annual food inflation rate averaged 11.7 per cent in November 2008, which is higher than the rate of 7.1 per cent in the corresponding period the year before," report adds.

My reaction: Africa is facing food shortages and famine:

1) There are 240,000 people in need of immediate relief food in Tanzania.

Since Tanzania does not have enough food for its own citizens, it will not be able to bail out its equally needy neighbors.

3) Kenya needs to import food to bridge a shortfall and keep 10 million of its people from starvation

4) Tanzania has intensified security at the border posts to monitor and prevent the export of food.

5) The wholesale prices of major food crops has continued to rise in November due to declining food reserves, and the annual food inflation has increasing to 16.3 percent (up 3.1 percent from prior month).

Conclusion: Looks like 2009 is going to be a humanitarian disaster around much of the world…

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0 Responses to Food Shortages and Famine in Africa

  1. Anonymous says:

    I guess gorilla ecotourism isn't working out so hot for Tanzania.

    I get so tired of hearing detached, completely abstract, verbose arguments comming from intellectual talking heads in manicured gardens at world conferences concerning the disposition of Africa.

    There should be no reason Africa has problems with ANYTHING. They have rich soil, copious amounts of resources, good growing seasons, lots of open land ready to be UTILIZED. The problem is complex but comes down to chronic subsidies from international donors which discourages local production and sustains these kleptocratic governments to perpetuity. The G7 thinks Africa should stay pristine, with wild animals roaming the countryside while the PEOPLE starve, or live at subsistant levels from foreign donors. No DDT, no land clearing, no political accountability and no practical solutions.

    Africa could be a tremendous trading parner trading commodities for infrastructure equipment to develope Africa out of the stone age. Using their natural resources they can develope domestic industries and agriculture to take care of their own needs and should be encouraged and ipso facto forced to do so.

    Chronic dependence on the west and a failure of the international community to give good developemental advice are some of the reasons that Africa is STILL in the state its in.

    There will be alot of hardship throughout the world with areas like Africa suffering immensely. If a trading block of countries could get organized, develope a new international currency and tap into some of Africas potential, then Africa would benefit for sure.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Incredibly sad state of affairs for Africa. And we might be there soon at the rate we are going.

  3. Yohay says:

    It's very sad to read this. I've been in a vacation to Ethiopia this October, and I've seen plenty of green fields. It's a pity that they don't know how to use their basic resources.

  4. OperationNorthwoods says:


    Those kleptocratic governments are frequently in power due to Western calculations. A desperately poor country is easier to plunder, no?

    Fortunately, China is helping develop Africa in a much more sensible way, so there's some hope for the future.

  5. daktari says:

    Read beyond what you see in the news and blogs, maybe a little history and certainly more about the environmental conditions. Most of the soils in Africa are far from rich, they are old, depleted and leached of nutrients. Yes, there are good growing seasons, but agriculture is seldom mechanized or irrigated, much of Tanzania relies upon human labor to plant, weed and harvest the crops. Inconsistent or shifting rainfall patterns can spell disaster, this has little to do with direct human actions.

    Most of Africa does not have wild animals roaming about. Tanzania and Kenya have set aside great tracts of land for this purpose and there are social struggles over who has the right to live, hunt and herd their animals in these areas. These are highly fraught and contentious issues within the National Governments of those countries that set aside these natural resources to attract foreign monies and tourism. Learn more about these problems and get involved in the social justice issues that surround them instead of making blanket statements. The article was about Tanzania and Kenya, not the entire continent.

    By the way, DDT is back in use in Tanzania, to spray the walls of houses.

    Thinking of the African continent as only a trade partner, a resource cache pool is the same sort of mentality that started this entire mess. Tanzania, Kenya, and 51 other countries need to be self-sustaining and reliant, not because it will benefit western powers, but because it will benefit the citizens of those countries. They did have domestic industries, and continue to struggle to sustain them, but aid has hamstrung the entrepreneurial abilities of many Africans because they cannot afford to produce basic goods, such as cloth, flip-flops, etc as China, India and other nations that have experienced heavy industrial investment.

    Note that the areas of food shortage are not where most tourists venture. But the decline in tourist dollars from the global economic crisis will only make matters worse. China is helping itself to many of Tanzania's rich forest lands and other resources, while destroying locally manufactured goods.

  6. James says:

    Feeding America today announced that it is working with the global health care company, Abbott, to pre-position nutritional products in 20 food banks throughout the Southeast United States and Puerto Rico in preparation for the 2009 hurricane season, which officially arrives on June 1. Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Food banks will receive pre-packaged disaster relief packs containing both adult and pediatric nutritionals that are designed specifically for families of different sizes. These disaster relief packs will serve more than 20,000 people in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Food banks were selected based on vulnerability to hurricanes, their capacity to assist in disaster response and recovery, and on population coverage.

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