Members of Parliament have appealed to the government to lift the ban on export of food crops mainly maize, saying the move was hurting farmers.
Debating the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives’ budget estimates, the legislators told the House that if the government wanted farmers not to sell their produce outside the country, then it must be ready to buy all the food crops produced by the farmers.
The last to contribute in Monday’s debate, Ally Mohamedi Kessy (CCM) Nkasi North charged that the government was wrong in banning maize exports, while knowing that it could not purchase all the stock in the region.
“To prohibit farmers from selling their food produce in neighbouring countries is tantamount to killing them. When you announced the ban, a bag of maize which was being sold at 30,000/- went down to between 12,000/- and 15,000/-. Worse still there are no businessmen buying the crop,” he noted.
He revealed that after the ban some officers from the agricultural department started buying maize at the cheaper price of 12,000/- with the intent to sell later at higher prices.
“Your officers are taking advantage of the ban to ruin farmers. Because they have money, they are now buying maize from farmers at a very cheap price and will later sell at very high prices. Why are you doing this?” he said.
He warned that the maize will have rotten by January when the government plans to lift the ban on export of maize from Rukwa region because it will be raining, making most roads in Rukwa region impassable.
“Mr Minister, you can’t drive in January. The maize will be rotting,” he said.
“If you ban export of maize, then be ready to buy them. But you don’t even have the funds. The minister tells us that they will buy only 200,000 tonnes of maize in four regions. The stock in Rukwa alone is more than 200,000 tonnes. Why then ban export of the crop? This is a free market. If you can’t buy; let them sell anywhere they want.”
“If you say food is not enough, then buy the crops instead of introducing the ban and closing borders, torturing farmers,” he said.
He also criticised farm inputs voucher system saying allocations were being delayed, affecting the performance of farmers.
“The price of farm inputs like quality seeds and fertilisers is very high compared to the prices offered to farmers for their harvest,” said Kessy.
Anne Kilango Malecela –CCM Same East MP supported Kessy in criticising the government ban of maize exports, saying the Minister for Agriculture was quoted by one of the news agencies as saying that the country has 1.7million tonnes of surplus food to be exported abroad.
“When did the government start doing business and why is it getting involved now? Why can’t it leave the business to farmers who grow the crops?” asked Kilango.
Kwela MP, Ignasi Malocha called on the government to ensure it provides farmers with proper markets and assured price for their crops.
“The government has since 2006/2007 todate failed to purchase all food surpluses in Rukwa region, leaving more than 80 percent in the hands of farmers. Why ban exports today?”
“If markets and prices are set properly, no farmer will complain,” he noted.
Winding up the debate yesterday evening, Minister Maghembe said from next month, a bag of 100-kilogramme maize should not be sold below 35,000/- to protect farmers.
The minister however did not comment on the call by MPs to lift the ban on maize exports.
Maghembe said that among the measures the government was taking to minimise the piling up of crops in the regions with surpluses was to move the grains from the National Food reserve Agency to storage nearer famine-prone areas.
He said the move will allow the NFRA to buy more crops from the farmers.
Earlier, when passing the budget, MPs from cotton growing areas threatened to withhold a shilling, in effect blocking the estimates, demanding that the agreed initial buying price of 1,100/- per kilo cotton be restored, after noting that a kilo now was being bought at 800/-.
The minister explained that the drop in the price of the crop had been caused by a fall in the world market prices, but the MPs stuck to their demand, prompting Premier Mizengo Pinda to intervene to resolve the stand-off by promising that the government would meet with all the stakeholders to look into the matter.