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As an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has raged in many countries, Tanzania has been impacted in some perhaps unexpected ways.
While the country’s human toll has been small — just 53 confirmed infected individuals, 7 of whom have since recovered and three fatalities out of a population of over 50 million people — the economic effects have been wide-ranging, and are still developing.
As of this month, there were more than over 13,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, with a number of countries imposing prevention and containment measures like enforced lockdowns, to check the spread of the disease.
Schools and colleges nationwide have been closed last month and yesterday the gocernment announced that will remain closed until further notice as coronavirus cases rose to 53. They will remain closed for the remainder of this month. The tourism industry has been hard hit in international tourist market amid a suspension of international flights in some countries.
Tanzania’s timber sector, though not as visible as tourism, is also suffering.
According to the Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) the country may lose a substantial amount of foreign currency due to declining export of forest products.
The agency attributes the decline to closure of boundaries in many countries as a measure to contain the spread of the virus.
Briefing the TFS northern zone manager, Edward Shilogile, TFS manager in Tanga region, Laurence Brighton said the business has been affected following closure of boundaries and lockdowns in European countries and United States of America who are the main buyers.
Brighton said: “We are struggling with the business, exports of timber and logs have declined to between 10 and 20 containers per month”. TFS Northern Zone Chief, Edward Shilogile said in the 2019/2020 fiscal year the agency surpassed its revenue collection targets by 2.6bn/-. He said the target was to collect 4bn/- but it has managed to collect 6.6bn/- . Figures on exactly how much trade has dropped aren’t available yet
Shilogile said they are working hard to control illegal export of forest products calling upon TFS staffs in the northern zone to avoid engaging in corruption as well as assisting traders to illegally export logs without paying government taxes.
He also warned the staffs to stop engaging in economic sabotage by aiding illegal harvesting and exportation of forest products and theft of seedlings and seeds.
The agency has seized logs worth 240m/- in Tanga region during the 2018/2019 financial year. The logs were auctioned after the court ruling.
TFS is a government agency established to develop and manage forest and bee resources sustainably in collaboration with stakeholders in order to deliver sufficient and quality goods and services to meet local and international socio-economic and environmental needs.