State: Food exports okay, unprocessed grain not allowed

Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Charles Tizeba

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THE government has emphatically stated that it has yet to issue any ban on export of food products outside the country with only one disclaimer: nobody is allowed to export unprocessed grain.

The Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Charles Tizeba (pictured), said yesterday that any businessperson who wants to export food products was free to do so, pointing out that his ministry would issue the export permits.

“My office had never denied any businessperson an export permit for flour, rice or any processed cereal outside the country,” said Dr Tizeba. But, on unprocessed grain, the minister added, Tanzania was not ready to export cereals because the country knew i t s implications.

“Last year for example, someone issued an export permit to a businessman to export 300,000 metric tonnes of rice cereal from Kahama District to Uganda, and within a few days 115 rice processing machines shut down operations, rendering hundreds of Tanzanians jobless,’’ he said.

Dr Tizeba was speaking in Dar es Salaam during the official opening of the ongoing 7th African Grain Trade Summit (AGTS). The fourday summit reaches its climax tomorrow.

According to the Eastern Africa Grain Council Executive Director, Mr Gerald Masila, the summit drew over 300 delegates who are stakeholders along the grain value chain from the African continent and beyond.

They will discuss key grain industry issues that include strategies for sustainable growth in grain production, new post-harvest technologies, marketing opportunities and emerging trends in the grain trade.

Under the theme: ‘Setting New Horizons: Rethinking Grain Trade for Food Security and Prosperity in Africa’, the 7th AGTS, Mr Masila said, focused on re-shaping the grain sector in Africa, developing new and timely solutions to empower grain sector businesses to take advantage of opportunities already present in the continent as well as making the grain sector in the continent more competitive in the global market.

Top diplomats who attended the summit called on African governments to remove trade barriers in the grain sector and the need to engage the private sector if the grain trade was anything to go by.

In the grain business, Dr Tizeba insisted that price should not be taken as a driving factor in increasing production, adding that African countries should look on how best to lower production costs, in order to maximize production and trade based on a win-win situation.

“Tanzania shall continue to abide by the regional and international obligations without undermining the needs of her people,’’ he stressed, adding that despite free trade, the government would make sure that no one died of hunger.

In his key note address to delegates of the AGTS, among them diplomats representing various countries in Tanzania, Eastern Africa Grain Council Chair of the Board of Directors, Eugene Rwibasira, said stakeholders were calling upon African governments to enact policies with the necessary incentives required to attract investments in grain value chains, especially in value addition and market linkages, as well as to improve implementation of supportive policies which are already in place.

“Reflecting on the already implemented interventions and ongoing initiatives, we can easily refocus the next strategic direction of the grain sector in Africa,’’ he said, adding: “Through the past summits, we have made progressive strides in strengthening public-private and inter-government collaboration to address food security challenges in Africa.

Mr Rwibasira further said that Tanzania had so far embraced the agenda of industrialization as a means of driving economic development, adding that in the grain sector, industrialization was long overdue, expressing appreciation on the increased attention being paid to agro-processing.

“As the private sector in the grain industry, we look forward to tapping into opportunities to invest in value addition enterprises to support our governments’ agenda.

However, we require a supportive and coherent policy environment that will guarantee regular, efficient supplies into our factories, and consistent access to markets within and outside our political boundaries,’’ he said.

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