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.
"Similarly, 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.
2) 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…