Food shortages feared in Lake, central, north zones

18May 2019
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
Food shortages feared in Lake, central, north zones

THERE is a looming shortage of food in the country due to anticipated poor harvests following delayed and insufficient rainfall in the Lake zone, central zone and the northern parts of the country, the government has cautioned.

The Minister for Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga told the National Assembly yesterday that despite having surplus food in the country, the ongoing farming season might not bring good harvests, calling on farmers to store enough in available supplies.

Tabling the 2019/20 ministerial budget estimates, he said that evaluation on availability of food conducted in December 2018 revealed that food crops harvests reached 16,891,974 tonnes, with 9,537,857 tonnes as cereals and 7,354,117 non-cereal crops.

With that amount the country has sufficient amount of food, having 13,569,285 tonnes of food in 2018/19 with a surplus of 3,322,689 tonnes, being 124 percent food sufficiency, he stated.

“Despite the recorded surplus of food in the country, I urge people at household level to store food until the next harvesting season since there is likely be poor harvests as a result of poor rain in several zones in the country,” the minister appealed.

On the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), he said the agency planned to buy 28,200 tonnes of maize from farmers but until March 2019 the agency had bought 56,236.035 tonnes .

 NFRA implemented an agreement to sell 36,000 tonnes of maize to the World Food Programme (WFP) at the price of Sh 21 billion.

On a different note, Hasunga told MPs that plans are underway to offer insurance on crops in the 2019/20 season, starting with at least two crops.

“The ministry to start with has held talks with different stakeholders for initial preparations to start crop insurance, starting with at least two crops,” said the minister.

For the system to start working efficiently there is need to have rightful data on weather conditions and proper adherence to modern agriculture, he pointed out.

In that connection, close collaboration between the meteorological authority and extension officers is paramount in order to succeed in the whole process, he elaborated .

Presenting the views of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water, deputy chairperson Dr Christine Ishengoma (Special Seats, CCM) said the committee paid gratitude to the government for the decision to purchase cashewnuts, saying the decision increased the price from 1,650.00/- to Sh 3,300.00 per kilogram.

The committee also pointed out the small budget allocation to NFRA which the minister requested as 67bn/- for the purchase of 110,000 tonnes but only Sh 15 billion was disbursed, that is enough to purchase 28,000 tonnes, being 22 percent of the total.

She said the government should also help in finding reliable markets for cash crops. “The committee realized serious challenges on availability of markets for crops like tea, tobacco, cotton, coffee, sisal, sunflower, cassava and maize,” she stated.

After delays, when the rains finally came especially this month, it poured heavily and caused a humanitarian crisis in some parts of the country.

Five people have been so far been confirmed dead and over 2,000 others displaced due to the heavy rains in Kyela district, Mbeya region.

Kyela District Executive Officer Salome Magambo said on Thursday that the deaths and displacements occurred mainly in Matema and Bujonde wards due to the downpour which started on April 29.