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September 24, 2012

Benefits of grain export bans debated in Tanzania

Tanzania is one of many African countries where the availability of key grains like maize, all of them mostly rain-fed, can be very unpredictable from season to season, depending on the climate.

 When there is a shortage of these grains for one reason or another, the food security (and therefore political) implications are so pressing that governments feel forced to intervene. Governments that make a lot of noise about the necessity of other countries opening up their markets more, suddenly have no qualms about instituting measures like price controls and export bans.

A meeting held in Tanzania to discuss the pros and cons of these periodic grain export bans had a number of speakers saying they not only don't achieve the intended result (securing local supply in a time of shortage and keeping prices 'reasonable'), they cause a number of other problems as well, including inviting retaliation from trade partners. In any case, another speaker said, where rice dynamics favour farmers or traders exporting rather than selling on the local market, they will find a way to get the commodity to the more lucrative market, export ban or not.

Prediction: Particularly for maize, for the foreseeable future no amount of research, data or arguing will stop African governments interfering with maize marketing at one level or another, including banning exports (or trying to) when there shortages. ALmost all African governments panic when there is a maize shortage.     

African Agriculture

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