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July 29, 2009

Bumper harvest expected in Tanzania, SADC states

by Wilfred Edwin

Food production in Tanzania is set to increase to 11.5 million metric tonnes, an additional 600,000 tonnes from last year's 10.9 million.

This is in line with other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which predicted recently that food security in the region had improved in 2009 compared with 2008 due to favourable weather.

The high food production figures have helped lower inflation, as the annual headline inflation rate for the year ended June 2009 decreased to 10.7 per cent, compared with 11.3 per cent in the year ended May 2009.

This was attributed mainly to the decrease of food inflation from 17.8 per cent in the year ended May 2009 to 17.0 per cent in the year ended June 2009.

Agriculture Minister Steven Wassira said in Dodoma that the government had formulated strategies to ensure that farmers produced surplus food. He said that food exports were still banned due to shortages across the country.

Even with the favourable situation, the minister told the House that the Ministry would mobilise farmers to grow drought-resistant crops such as millet, sweet potatoes and cowpeas in areas with scarce rainfall.

Mr Wassira said farmers will be taught modern ways of crop storage, and how to budget their food needs.

"To ensure that a bumper harvest becomes a reality, the use of hybrid seeds and application of better crop husbandry and government subsidies to six breadbasket regions of Iringa, Mbeya, Morogoro, Ruvuma, Rukwa and Kigoma will be stressed," he said.

He added that the private sector should import fertiliser in a new government initiative by Agriculture First.

The country needs at least 350,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser every year.

During the 2009/10 fiscal year, the government, through a food security project funded by a World Bank loan, will use $90 million to provide input subsidies.

The other $46 million of this is from the Accelerated Food Security Project and $44 million is from the recurrent budget, said the minister.

Under the Agricultural Sector Development Programme, the ministry will work with farmers at the district council level.

About 75 per cent of resources will be channelled to local authorities.

The minister said that implementation of the development policy will continue under the District Agricultural Development Programmes.

To implement this policy, the district councils will be directed on the amount of money that will be allocated to them.

Food security issues were also discussed by SADC Agriculture ministers in a meeting on May 21 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Said Mr Wassira: "The government has noted the progress made in increasing the availability and use of key agricultural inputs such as seed and fertiliser. In the past one year, negotiations on the development of a memorandum of understanding for implementing a harmonised seed regulatory system, which was approved in 2007, have been completed.

"The system aims at providing high quality seed to farmers to complement the efforts of member states in improving crop production and food security."

Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of the Dar-es-salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.

They said implementation of this declaration in the past five years had yielded positive results.

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