Financial Times Staff Writer sought the WFP Representative for Tanzania, MICHAEL DUNFORD (pictured), to explain progress made in the purchase of the maize and other issues related to the UN organization’s operations in Tanzania. Excerpts…
QUESTION: In January this year WFP signed an agreement to procure 36,000 metric tonnes of maize from the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA). What progress has WFP made in this exercise?
ANSWER: I n 2018, WFP purchased over 160,000 metric tons of food commodities in Tanzania, injecting US$ 60 million into the local economy for procurement and supply chain services using the Tanzania corridor. This is up from US$ 28 million in 2017.
In 2019, based on expected food requirements for WFP operations in the region, the organization plans to purchase at least 100,000 metric tons of food commodities from Tanzania. Depending on supply, demand and price, this could increase significantly.
Q: What challenges WFP is facing in buying the maize?
WFP buys maize in Tanzania in three different ways:
a) From traders
b) From smallholder farmers
c) From NFRA
The main challenges include the following:
Bagging capacity is limited and usually bagging is done manually which usually take long time to deliver.
Maize is stored in 100 kg bags which has to be re-bagged in 50 kg bags for utilization in WFP projects
Maize is mainly produced in the south whereas WFP projects, whether refugee food assistance in Tanzania or neighbouring countries are in the north which involves high transport costs for delivery. This also minimizes the benefit to farmers as the final price has to be competitive.
Most of the smallholder farmers are not well-organized as their organizations do not have the capacity to meet WFP volume demand.
Due to uncertainty in the market, traders are reluctant to maintain large stocks. Due to this, often they start collecting maize from farmers once they receive the order, which delays the delivery time.
Q: When do you expect to complete the buying of maize?
A: WFP has signed a contract to purchase 36,000 tonnes in January from NFRA – this will be completed in the next 30 days. Operations are going on at a good pace.
Q: And how is the food situation in refugee camps in Tanzania?
A: Tanzania currently hosts 285,078 refugees in three camps in northwest Tanzania. This number fluctuates depending on emergencies in neighbouring countries and repatriation from the camps.
WFP food assistance is the main source of food for refugees. WFP provides a food basket of cereals, SuperCereal (fortified blended food), pulses, vegetable oil and salt to each refugee based on a minimum recommended requirement of 2,100 kilocalories per day. In 2017, however, WFP reduced the food ration to as low as 60 per cent of the minimum kcal requirement due to funding shortages. Rations returned to 100 per cent only in October 2018 through the support of donors.
WFP calls on donors, including China to support its refugee operation so that it can continue to provide a 100 per cent of the minimum food requirement of refugees.
In 2019, WFP is facing a shortfall of US$ 40 million in its refugee operation.
WFP food assistance in the camps also includes a Supplementary Feeding Programme to provide additional nutrition support to pregnant and lactating women, children under five years, people with HIV/AIDS and hospital in-patients.
In addition, hot meals are served to newly arriving refugees at transit and reception centres, and high energy biscuits provided to those in transit.
Donor contributions to WFP Tanzania come in both the form of cash and in-kind commodities. Cash contributions enable WFP to procure some of the food commodities locally, which helps boost agriculture in the country.
Apart from buying from directly from Tanzania, WFP also contributes to the Tanzanian economy by using local companies for the handling, storage and transportation of food for refugees.
Q: What other operations that WFP is undertaking in Tanzania?
A: WFP support to smallholder farmers (SHF)
Since 2017, approximately 53,000 smallholder farmers, of which 44 per cent were women, have benefitted from WFP’s programmes.
The programs include training on good agronomic practices and post-harvest technologies, linking farmer’s organizations with financial service provider, quality input providers and markets.
WFP has also developed a digital application for real-time data capture with a total of 23,000 farmers already registered.
Smallholder farmers can market their commodities to a broader range of buyers, including WFP.
WFP support to national economy
Since 2010, WFP supported the national economy by injecting over $330 million in the form of food purchased in Tanzania and supply chain services using the Tanzania corridor for the neighbouring countries including Uganda, Malawi, DRC, South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda.
Since 2017, as part of its country strategy, WFP started promoting the Tanzania corridor which entails the use of Dar es Salaam port and local purchase of maize for the humanitarian operations in the region.
In 2017, WFP brought 5 vessels carrying bulk food to Dar port which were followed by several commercial shipments.
WFP support to Tanzania Railways Corporation
In 2017 and 2018, WFP transported 37,000 tons of food through Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) at a total value of US$ 2.5 million.
In order to enhance the Railways capacity, WFP is proposing to rehabilitate 40 wagons that are currently out of service at a value of US$ 600,000.
Opening of Lake Victoria Corridor
In July 2018, WFP opened the Lake Victoria corridor for transportation of goods from Tanzania to Uganda and South Sudan. A train loaded in Dar es Salaam can be loaded on the ferry in Mwanza which then rolls out at port bell for delivery of food at the destination in Kampala. 25 block trains have already crossed successfully since the opening of the corridor.
Opening of this corridor brings significant economic benefits for Tanzania and for the region as follows:
New market for Tanzania Railways
Support to Marine Services. The increased demand from the commercial sector has necessitated the Marine Service to expand their capacity as they are introducing another ferry with five times the capacity of the current one.
Enhanced coordination between Uganda Railways and TRC
WFP support to NFRA
Since 2010, WFP purchased over 225,000 tons from NFRA at a value of US$ 60 million. This includes 67,000 tons in 2018.
This helped the NFRA rotate their stocks while also generating revenue to purchase more food.
In December 2018, WFP conducted an assessment of NFRA’s commodity tracking business process with the aim to develop a digital commodity tracking system capable of providing real-time information to the national authorities for decision making on food availability. WFP is seeking funding to roll this out.
Through WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot initiative between 2009 and 2013, WFP and NFRA strengthened their programmatic relationship. A key achievement of this initiative was the adoption of the smallholder (SHF) procurement model by the Ministry of Agriculture in the NFRA annual procurement plan.
Previously, WFP assisted the NFRA in the development of its Operational Manual and training of its warehouse staff in stock management.