Tanzania’s nutritional food challengeput in a nutshell

04Oct 2017
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
Tanzania’s nutritional food challengeput in a nutshell
  • It has been confirmed that the government doesn’t have the funds to purchase a new machine to determine the nutritional content of foods produced and processed locally

THE only machine available to officially measure the nutritional content of manufactured food products in the country has been defective for the past two years, leading to producers having to incur huge costs in carrying out such mandatory measurements abroad,

 the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC) confirmed yesterday.

According to TFNC’s information, education and communications officer Herbert Gowelle, although the government is aware of the financial headache that producers are encountering, there are currently no funds available to purchase a new High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine for determining the quality of food samples and nutrients therein.

“We have had the machine since 1995, but unfortunately it became damaged a few years ago and it has also been difficult to find spare parts for it,” Gowelle told The Guardian in an interview.

He called for local food producing and processing businesses to exercise patience as TFNC and the government work ‘tirelessly’ to address the challenge of getting a new HPLC machine which has a confirmed value of around $50,000 (110 million/-).

“We are struggling to get support from our partners and stakeholders in our efforts to secure a new machine ... at the moment, we have no budget to facilitate the purchase,” he said.

Nutritional analysis is just one of many services provided by TFNC  to ensure the safety and quality of  local food products, according to Gowelle. “Accurate nutritional analysis is essential to ensure you comply with labelling regulations and retailer specifications,” he explained.

Accordimg to Revocatus Kimario,  executive director of the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO) based at Morogoro’s Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA),  food processing firms “are going through a very challenging time” due to the lack of a working HPLC machine.

“The challenge is in terms of extra costs they have to bear in order to ascertain the reliability and accuracy of the micro nutrients available in their processed foodstuffs,” Kimario said, noting that this has been “holding back the dreams of local entrepreneurs to start exporting their food products to outside markets and therefore contribute to the boosting of the national economy.”

He added: “Their plans to expand their businesses are being swept away as they can’t afford to send their samples for nutritional tests in countries like Kenya, Zambia, South Africa. And if you don’t do a proper nutritional analysis of your food products, you won’t be able to display them in any formal market outside the country.”

The lack of a functional HPLC machine in the country was highlighted in discussions during the launch of the ‘orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) platform’ in Tanzania held recently in Dar es Salaam.

According to Kimario, representatives from OFSP processing fiorms at the event cited the problem as one of the biggest challenges in trying to introduce the new crop and its nutritional value to potential customers.

The OFSP is regarded as a high value, high yielding food security crop, rich in Vitamin A, which provides a much needed boost to the human immunity system and helps prevent serious health conditions like the early onset of blindness.

Nigeria is among countries that have heavily invested in its production and consumption. 

Kimario called on the government to capacitating its institutions to provide food nutritional value analysis services, in order to enable processing companies to contribute fully to the country’s current industrialization agenda.