FEWS Tanzania Food Security Update: 10 Jan 2003

The national food security condition remained satisfactory in December and consumers' access to food supplies was good.

Wholesale maize prices in most monitored markets remained relatively stable from October to early December.

December wholesale maize prices in the southern highlands were among the highest in Tanzania. This is attributed to the active demand for maize in southern Africa countries.

In December Tanzania donated 3,000 MT of maize to the food deficit Zimbabwe. In the last six months Tanzania has donated a total of 7,000 MT to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.

Performance of the short rains (vuli) in bimodal areas and the seasonal rains, which started in September-November, are satisfactory in most parts of the country.

Harvesting of some of the crops planted at the beginning of these rains has started while others are at various stages of growth.

Good rains have improved water and pasture availability, enabling livestock to recover from the stress they experienced during the dry season. The good rains also enabled pastoralists and agropastoralists to consume and sell more milk.

1. Current Food Security Overview

The national food security condition remained satisfactory in December and consumers' access to food supplies was good. However, the government has not decided yet to implement the interventions recommended in the Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) report, released by the Food Security Information Team (FSIT) in December 2002. The lack of action suggests that some of the 177,000 people for which subsidized food supplies were recommended to begin in January might already be experiencing food shortages.

2. Wholesale Prices for Maize

Wholesale maize prices in key reference markets remained relatively stable between October and early December, suggesting steady supplies to the markets. During December, the highest prices were recorded in Bukoba and Musoma (in the Lake Victoria Basin), but these prices are not cause for major concern because maize is not the main staple in these regions. Reports from Bukoba (Kagera region) show that prices for banana (matoke), which is the main staple, have remained at manageable levels.

For Musoma (Mara region), where the main staples include millet and sorghum, millet is consistently more expensive than both maize and sorghum, and sorghum tends to be less expensive than maize. In recent months, however, the price of sorghum shot up to levels significantly higher than maize. Maize is currently the cheapest option for market dependents (Figure 1).

In areas where maize is an important cash or food crop, December maize prices have been relatively stable since November, decreasing slightly in Rukwa and Mbeya, and increasing no more than 9 percent in Iringa and Mwanza.

Relatively high maize prices in the southern highlands (Rukwa, Iringa and Mbeya) have been attributed to demand from other southern Africa countries. According to recent reports, trade along the border with Zambia has been very active in recent months and up to 100 MT of maize is crossing the border almost daily. The reports claim further that food shortages in these countries have triggered a 75 percent jump in price at the border from TShs. 10,000 to TShs. 17,500 per 100 kg. bag between September and early January. In February/March 2003, FEWS NET and other collaborators plan to conduct further analysis of the effects of cross-border trade in the southern highlands in order to recommend ways to increase the magnitude and distribution of benefits from the trade policy among farmers, traders, consumers and local authorities.

3. National Food Availability

In December Tanzania donated 3,000 MT of maize from its strategic grain reserve (SGR) to Zimbabwe. This is in addition to grain donated earlier by Tanzania to Malawi and Zambia, totaling 4,000 MT. The SGR's opening stock in July 2002, was 47,047 MT. Since then, the SGR has purchased 25,250 MT and sold or donated 14,556 MT. The balance, therefore, as of January 2003 stands at 57,844 MT. The SGR expects to purchase an additional 3,000 MT during the remainder of the 2002-03 marketing year.

As reported in previous months, SGR purchased much of its grain this year from Arusha (Northern Tanzania) and Dodoma (Central Tanzania) Regions, rather than the traditional surplus areas in the Southern Highlands because higher prices in the southern highlands have pushed the SGR out of the market. The SGR expect to purchase most of the remaining 3,000 MT from Dodoma and Arusha. While farmers in Arusha and Dodoma with surplus maize are likely to benefit from this new source of demand, upward pressure on prices may hurt poorer households who depend on the market to meet part or all of their annual food needs.

4. Performance of the 2002/03 Short Rains (Vuli) and Long Rains Seasons

It was reported in the previous reports that the 2002/03 short rains (vuli) season started as expected in September in Kagera region while they were staggered in the rest of the bimodal rainfall areas. The long rains also started on time in October-November in the unimodal areas except in central Tanzania (Dodoma and Singida regions) where rains were late. As a general statement, so far the rains have been normal in most parts of the country, with a few exceptions highlighted in Figure 2 below.

Crop performance so far has also been good. During December bean harvesting continued in Kagera (Lake Victoria Basin) and started in some parts of Kilimanjaro (Northern Tanzania). Maize and other crops are at various stages of growth with harvesting expected to start shortly in Kagera while the tasselling stage has been reached in other areas such as Kilimanjaro and Mwanza. The good crop progress reduces earlier fears that food shortages might occur in the districts of Magu (Mwanza Region), Rombo (Kilimanjaro Region) and Sikonge (Tabora Region) in the first quarter of 2003. It will be possible to make a more definite statement on this in March, after the normal short dry period in January-February, which sometimes reverses gains in crop performance.

Regional field reports are consistent with satellite data, and suggest that the vuli and long rains have increased water availability and pasture for livestock. Vegetation was good in most parts of the country, being medium to heavy, except in Dodoma (central) and Iringa (Southern Highlands) where vegetation was light to very light, respectively (figure 3a). Compared to the long term average, however, vegetation was below normal and much below normal in most of the country except in the northeast (figure 3b).

Livestock have recovered from dry season stresses, as a result of improved availability of water and pasture. Consequently, milk production is increasing. This implies a corresponding improvement in food security conditions for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. Incomes from milk sales are also assumed to be increasing.

5. Armyworm Outbreak in Dodoma Region (Central Tanzania)

An outbreak of armyworms was reported in some areas of Dodoma Region (Central Tanzania) but so far has not caused any serious crop damage. In December the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) distributed a total of 2,700 liters of an insecticide (Adonis) that controls armyworms. The reports claim that the amount of insecticide distributed is lower than normally required. For this reason regional authorities in Dodoma are encouraging traders of agricultural inputs in the region to increase their stocks of the insecticide and urging farmers to meet their chemical requirement gaps through individual or group purchases from private input outlets.

6. Food Security Outlook for the Coming 5 Months

The government has not taken a decision yet on how to proceed with the interventions recommended in the Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) report released by the Food Security Information Team (FSIT) in December. Further delays will likely create food shortages starting in January 2003 for 177,000 people in the districts of Monduli (Arusha Region), Simanjiro (Manyara Region), Mwanga and Same (Kilimanjaro Region), Korogwe, Lushoto and Muheza (Tanga Region), Liwale (Lindi Region) and Masasi (Mtwara Region). In addition, 33,700 households are short of planting materials for the 2002-03 cropping year. Unless this situation is addressed, these households will be even less able to meet next year's food needs through their own production and may become even more dependent on outside assistance.

If the situation in the districts mentioned above is fully addressed soon, the food security situation in the country is expected to remain satisfactory, at least until the new crops planted during both the short rains (vuli) and seasonal rains seasons are harvested.