TANZANIA: FAO/WFP special report on crop and food supply 1999.2.16

TANZANIA: FAO/WFP special report on crop and food supply 1999.2.16


15 February 1999


Abnormal weather patterns, including serious floods in late 1997 and delayed rainfall and drought during the current Vuli season, have had a serious impact on domestic food production. Amidst reports of serious food shortages developing in the country and escalating prices of maize, the country's main staple, the Government requested an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in early January 1999. The mission was to appraise the current situation, specifically with regards to maize and to update the findings of an earlier FAO/WFP assessment in August 1998. In accordance with this request a rapid appraisal mission was fielded to the country between 17-29 January. The specific objectives were to appraise prospects for current Vuli maize production, review the overall food supply situation, prepare a maize balance sheet for the remaining four months of the current marketing year and provide early indications of prospects for the next main (Musumi and Masika) crops. The assessment was based on field visits to main bimodal and uni-modal rainfall areas and on discussions with key Government Ministries and Departments and UN, bilateral, private sector agencies and NGOs involved in the food sector

The Mission found that with the exception of Kigoma and Kagera, rainfall in all other Vuli areas was significantly delayed and well below normal, which seriously affected land preparation and planting. The worst affected regions were the Coast and the lowlands of Arusha, Morogoro and Kilimanjaro where rainfall was less than 25 percent of normal. As a result of reduced rainfall, planted area and yields fell sharply and overall Vuli maize production will be significantly below normal. Rainfall over the next two months will also be critical for crop production and food supply prospects, as it will heavily influence the outcome of the main Musumi and Masika crops to be harvested from May. In the event that these crops fail, the food situation is likely to deteriorate significantly.

In addition, domestic maize supplies for the current marketing year were also reduced by higher than anticipated storage losses. These losses were due to a combination of ineffective pesticide use, generally poor storage facilities and high levels of grain borer infestation. On the basis of post harvest inspections of storage facilities, the level of loss is estimated to be much higher than was anticipated by the last FAO/WFP mission in August, which did not have the benefit of such inspections. Supplies may also have been reduced by increased unoffical cross border trade in maize to Zambia, in response to higher prices as a result of significantly reduced production last year. To some extent, however, this flow was countered by imports in the north from Kenya, where prices have remained low due to a good maize harvest and substantial maize imports last year. In addition to supply constraints, there was increased demand for maize this year in regions like Dodoma and Singida, where the principal sorghum and millet crops failed almost totally last year. In these regions the food situation is more precarious than other parts of the country as the harvest has failed for three successive years and the population has less access to alternative foods, such as bananas and tubers.

The sudden rise in maize prices in late October/early November over a relatively short period, suggests that in addition to developing shortages, which would have had a more gradual impact on price, there was a considerable degree of hoarding. The hoarding was principally due to (i) the failure of the rains during these months, which are essential for both short and long season preparations and (ii) considerable coverage in the national press warning of impending food problems. This view is supported by discussions the mission had with small and medium traders in surplus areas in the south, who were observed to have reasonable stocks available and had begun reducing prices in mid/late January as rainfall prospects improved.

Although the availability and price of maize have given cause for concern, there is satisfactory supply of foods, other than sorghum and millet, in the main producing areas at reasonable prices. This is due to the favourable production of rice, banana and tuber crops last main season as a result of heavy rainfall. Rice however, still remains beyond the reach of poorer sectors of the population who have limited purchasing power, whilst crops like cassava and banana are only available in main producing areas as they are not easily transported to food deficit areas over large distances.

Based on area and yield estimates and the pattern of rainfall this year, 1999 Vuli maize production is estimated at 228 000 tonnes, some 60 percent lower than last year and 40 percent below the long term average. Taking into account estimated stocks of 120 000 tonnes, available at the beginning of February, the domestic availability of maize for the remaining four months of the current marketing year is projected at 348 000 tonnes. Most of the stock is held by large traders and the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). Against this, utilisation needs, including allowances for food, seed, feed, waste and closing strategic stocks, are estimated at 909 000 tonnes. To meet these needs, therefore, the country has an estimated import requirement of approximately 561 000 tonnes, of which contracted commercial imports are estimated at 75 000 tonnes and food aid in the pipeline a further 3 000 tonnes. This leaves the country with an uncovered import requirement of 483 000 tonnes, of which 20 000 will be requested as further food assistance through WFP. In the meantime the Government has released 10 000 tonnes through the SGR in relief assistance. Although the aggregate deficit in maize remains sizeable, it is recognised that considerable substitution by other food crops will reduce overall requirements for maize. The commercial sector may also increase the volume of imports, in view of the lifting of the import duty on maize and providing domestic prices in relation to international prices remain high.

The shortfall in current Vuli production and successive poor harvests in parts of the country has significantly increased the numbers of people that are vulnerable to food shortages. Moreover, as excessive rainfall was beneficial for pastures last year, the animal population increased markedly, which has contributed to considerable worsening in the terms of trade between livestock and cereals this year. Pastoralists, therefore, constitute an important category of the population who have been made increasingly vulnerable to food shortages. At the time of the last FAO/WFP assessment, it was estimated that 300 000 people were in need of some form of emergency assistance. However, as this assumed a normal Vuli harvest, the fact that crop production has fallen sharply this season means that a larger number of people will need additional food assistance. The estimate of people needing food assistance, therefore, has been revised to approximately one million, for whom an additional 20 000 tonnes will be requested.

In view of the serious food problems that have emerged due to natural disasters in recent years, it is imperative that the Government implement appropriate strategies to cope with the effects of such disasters in future. In the short term such a strategy will require that adequate strategic grain reserves are maintained, monitored and utilised in meeting emergency food needs and in capping price rises if necessary. Longer term food security requires adequate investment in agriculture. Irrespective of the need for funding, however, the mission notes with some concern that there has effectively been dis-investment in essential support services like research and extension. This in turn has led to low morale and affected productivity in agriculture. The Special Programme for Food Security jointly formulated by the Government and FAO provides an extremely useful framework for improving people's access to food in the long term, through appropriate and sustainable production enhancing technologies. The establishment of a special working group on food security with the aim of co-ordinating various bilateral and multi-lateral efforts in the food and agriculture sector is also seen as being an extremely important initiative.



Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 13:32:23 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: TANZANIA: FAO/WFP special report on crop and food supply 1999.2.16

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,