As the government tallies the latest figures on food shortages across the Singida region alone needs some 1,200 tons of food to save 3,903 people who are currently starving in Singida district council alone.
The shortage of food in the area has been caused by poor harvests during the 2011/212 season, Acting Agricultural and Livestock Advisor for Singida regional secretariat Lucas Nkuki has confirmed.
Nkuki revealed the magnitude of the problem when presenting a report on the state of food availability during a council meeting held on Thursday in the district. He said the food would cater for the needs of starving people between this month and April this year.
He explained that last November the Office of the Singida regional commissioner received a report on the food situation from Ikungi and Singida rural districts before it was forwarded to the prime minister’s office (disaster management department) on December 3rd, 2012.
“Since the process of gathering information on the food situation reveals that by December 19th, 2012 it was noted that 26 wards were f acing shortages of up to 6,515 tons of food,” he said.
He said the second report was forwarded to the prime minister’s office just after Christmas Day. But, before officials at regional level rested, they received the third food survey report that showed another 17 wards in crisis, bringing a total of 43 wards that required a total of 786.4 tons.
He said the names of individuals in need of food had since been sent to the prime minister’s office.
The report from Singida district council comes amid frightening reports from various regions in the country that a large population either faces or may face food shortage in the near future.
Some parts of northern regions of Arusha and Manyara are the hardest hit, sending a clear signal that the worst is expected as most parts of the country did not record sufficient harvests during the 2011/2012 farming season.
Director of National Food Security at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Karim Mtambo told the Guardian this week that the ministry in collaboration with local authorities were currently conducting a fresh countrywide survey.
President Jakaya Kikwete, while on a working tour of Tabora region last week criticized regional and district leaders for not telling the truth about the food situation in their areas.
He said it was not proper for Tanzanians to starve when the government was capable of supplying relief food.
Last November, the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Christopher Chiza issued a government report in Parliament on the food situation across the country in which it was revealed that only seven out of 30 regions had surplus of food while eight had sufficient food stocks
The report also revealed that six regions were facing food shortage, namely Dar es Salaam, Manyara, Kilimanjaror, Arusha, Tabora and Shinyanga.
Regions with surplus food were identified as Iringa, Rukwa, Mbeya, Kagera, Mtwara, Kigoma and Ruvuma while regions noted to have sufficient amount of food were Morogoro, Coast, Mara, Tanga, Lindi, Mwanza, Singida and Dodoma .
Chiza said the country had enough stocks of food, allaying public fears in the wake of inflated food prices that hit the country during the 2010/2011 season.
He said the findings of the national food assessment showed in 2011/2012 farming season the country harvested some 13.6 million tons of food while the national demand for 2012/2013 stands at 12.0 million tons.
Breaking down the statistics the minister said in 2011/2012 farming season a total of 7,558,342 tons of cereals were harvested while the country’s demands stands at 7,551,244 tons -- a surplus of 7,097 tons.
On non-cereal crops such as potatoes, cassava, banana and beans, the minister said a total of 6,014,463 tons were harvested while the country’s demand stood at 4,438,870 tons, with a healthy surplus of 1,575,592 tons.
The minister added that the assessment showed that a total of 63 district councils in 17 regions were facing food shortages, adding that 18,417.8 tons of food aid had been allocated for 35 district councils in 12 regions to cater for two to three months. A total of 526,607 people were targeted the food aid.
Despite an increase in food production during the 2011/2012 season, a total of 36 countries across the world, especially the low-income states in Sub Saharan Africa , would face food shortages during the 2012/2013 season.
Overall, countries located in eastern and southern Africa were likely to be affected by food shortages; these would include Burundi , DR Congo, Kenya , South Sudan, Somalia , Madagascar , Malawi and Mozambique. Drought, floods and internal political conflicts are among factors behind these shortages.
Due to these trends in the neighbouring countries, cereal prices would continue skyrocketing with Juba, Kampala and Nairobi cereal markets taking the lead in the East African region.
Businesspeople, in turn, have been taking cereals to those EA markets that attract high cereal prices, creating shortages in the local market.
In order to cushion food prices in the country Chiza said the government was implementing several strategies, including ensuring all irrigation schemes were fully utilized in order to increase production.
The government would also increase the budget allocation for the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).
In 2012/2013 NFRA set a target of buying and storing 200,000 tons of maize and, doubling to 400,000 tons in 2915.