Dar es Salaam: Shortage of sugar has pushed up prices of the commodity in retail outlets to record levels of between 2,200/- and 2,500/- per kilogramme. The gap between local production and demand for sugar is currently estimated at 100,000 tonnes and this is after the government imported 20,000 tonnes from the Southern African Development Community countries to boost supply. The Tanzania Sugar Board Chairman, Mr Castor Raphael Ligalama, said on Monday that the government had given permits to all importers to bring in about 50,000 tonnes to offset the shortage, largely caused by factories that suspended production six months ago.
"Even as the factories resumed production two weeks ago, the country's sugar deficit is 100,000 tonnes, since annual consumption is 400,000 tonnes against local output at 300,000 tonnes," he said.
In less than a fortnight, the price of the commodity has increased by an average of 600/- in some outlets, according to wholesalers and retailers. This is despite the government's announcement earlier this year that a kilogramme should not surpass 1,700/-.
But Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Minister, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, said in a statement to 'Daily News' yesterday that prices of sugar in Tanzania were lower compared to other East African countries. He said the consumer price in Tanzania is between 1,700/- and 2,500/- per kilogramme while it goes for 4,000/- per kilogramme in Kenya and 3,500/- in Uganda.
The Tanzania Sugar Producers Association (TSPA) Executive Secretary, Ambassador Fadhil Mbaga, said even with the price hike, the levels were two times lower than in neighbouring countries. "The prices here are still lower," he maintained. Prof. Maghembe said it was important for the government to take steps to curtail any likelihood of sugar being smuggled out of the country.
He said the country's needs were pegged at 380,000 tonnes for ordinary use and 100,000 tonnes for factories and that while local factories had capacity to produce 365,000 tonnes, it was expected to go up to 420,000 tonnes in 2011/2012. The Minister said all Regional Commissioners at the country's border areas have been directed to ensure that no sugar is transported out of the country.
In Kilimanjaro and Arusha, sugar was on Monday selling at between 2,000/- and 2,200/- per kilogramme in several retail outlets with traders blaming high prices on soaring costs. According to the price list, wholesellers are requested to sell a 50kg bag of sugar at 75,000/-, a 25kg bag at 37,000/- while the price ceiling for a 20kg bag is 32,000/-. But a 50kg bag is sold for 110,000/-.
The sugar board chairman said the only factory which had been given permit to export but with a ceiling was Kagera Sugar but that their re-application for another export permit had been rejected by the government due to the prevailing shortage. "We have also asked the sugar producers in the country to improve their national distribution, so that we don't have an imbalance of availability of the product," he said.
The Board has also asked those living in the country's periphery to mark out business people who can get permit to be able to import from neighbouring countries but at lower costs. "Sugar is a protected product, so what can be imported has to be limited because even the local factories have to be protected," he said.
* Related article: Up efforts to eradicate illegal sugar exports
Dar es Salaam: Sugar is undoubtedly one of the most common and essential commodities in the world. We count ourselves blessed since Tanzania is a substantial sugar producer. There are four sugar factories in the country: Mtibwa and Kilombero, both in Morogoro, Tanzania Planting Company in Kilimanjaro and Kagera in the region going by that name. All of them are expected to produce 307,000 tonnes of sugar by early next year. This amount would be enough to cater for 70 per cent of the country’s sugar needs. It means 92,000 tonnes have to be imported to plug the shortfall.
Now, it is perplexing that there is a shortage of the commodity in Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions, among others. This purported shortage has pushed the sugar price to above the government-set indicative price of Sh75,000 for a 50kg bag. This, when we have been made to understand that all our factories resumed production last month.
Authoritative reports have it that the shortage of sugar is caused by very lucrative prices of the commodity that are offered in neighbouring countries.
But then, this could be a blessing in disguise. Why, it means the country can brace itself to produce more sugar to satisfy, not only Tanzania’s demand, but that of our neighbours’ as well. As the sages say, in every cloud, there is a silver lining.
It means we have this opportunity to be, for starters, the East African region’s 'basket case' insofar as sugar is concerned! Our sugar factories should take the cue and come up with plans for exploiting the East African Common Market and beyond.
At the same time, relevant authorities should redouble their efforts to plug loopholes that allow for illegal sugar exports. This is crucial because, besides denying Tanzania affordable use of a commodity that is locally produced, smuggling, needless to say, translates into huge losses to the government in unpaid tariffs. That shouldn’t be allowed.
* Editorial comment in The Citizen, 30 August 2011. http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/editorial-analysis/-/14240--up-efforts-to-er...