The sugar shortage that hit the country hard last year, prompting price controls and a government crackdown on those selling the item across the border has persisted and actually gotten worse.
The price of sugar has refused to climb down after crossing the 2,000/- per kilo mark, defying government efforts to bring it down to 1,700/-.
The pinch which prompted a major public outcry has been felt at the household level, where the item is no longer a luxury, as was the case some years back.
The Sugar Board of Tanzania was forced to issue permits to importers to bring in the item, after a serious shortfall in local production.
Early last month the Sugar Board of Tanzania gave registered importers ten days to bring in the sweetener tax-free as per their permits or face the risk of losing their licences.
The Board’s Director General Mathew Kombe said 26 companies were licensed to import duty-free 100,000 tonnes of sugar from any country in order to cover the shortage being experienced in the country and contain price rise of the commodity. However many of the permit holders had apparently failed to deliver for unexplained reasons.
The Board’s move signaled worsening of the problem as admitted by Kombe, who noted that the indicative sugar price of 1,700 /- per kilo set by the government had not worked, despite the Board’s efforts to hold it down at that level.
In some big supermarkets sugar was being sold at 1,900/- per kilo while some retailers were selling the item for between 2,000/- and 2,400/- per kilo, according to Kombe.
Going by the figures, the country needed to bring in over 100,000 tonnes of sugar to at least meet the national demand. Of supplies were disrupted after some of the national production found its way into neighbouring countries through illegal networks, aggravating the shortage.
Sugar consumption is estimated at 480,000 tonnes per year, but the four factories, namely TPC, Kilombero, Kagera and Mtibwa Sugar produce only 320,000 tonnes.
That is why there is an urgent need not only to close the demand-supply gap nationally, but to also produce enough to cover some of the regional demand.
The other day sugar experts met in Morogoro to address the issue, with a view to ending the shortages. It is about time indeed that the stakeholders took up this course of action, seeking a lasting solution to the persistent problem.
The stakeholders said they would look into all aspects of production of the commodity, from the sugar cane varieties used to whether the cultivation depended on rains or irrigation and the processing methods applied to extract maximum sugar.
It was heartening to hear some of the sugar technologists say they believed there is a lot they could do within the current capacities to boost output, before contemplating any expansion activity.
It is an approach that lifts spirits and shows that more and more of our experts are concerned about finding home-grown solutions to the challenges we face as a nation.
We hope the relevant authorities will extend all the support they need to achieve their noble undertaking.