Thousands Threatened With Acute Food Shortage In Tanzania

Nicodemus Odhiambo, PANA Correspondent

  • At least one million people are faced with an acute food shortage in Tanzania due to the prevailing dry spell in several regions of the country.

In Singida, at least 150,000 are in need of emergency food aid while the number is four times in Shinyanga.

The acting Singida regional commissioner, Martin Mgongolwa said, a deficit of 9,500 tonnes of food is imminent.

In Shinyanga 158,000 tonnes of grain would have to be sent to boost the available 395,000 tonnes of food needed to sustain the region's 2.53 million inhabitants.

Mgongolwa told reporters that more than 156,000 people in 142 villages have been affected by the drought in Singida and needed an emergency food aid.

The region, where rainfall is extremely unreliable, received 13,000 tonnes of food from the World Food Programme in 1998 "but this ran out in March," he added.

Shinyanga's regional commissioner, Tumainieli Kiwelu, said the drought in the region was as a result of an accumulated food shortage owing to unfavourable weather conditions since 1997.

"Given a good yield, Shinyanga farmers produce up to 80 percent of the total food requirements in the region," he said.

The region has only received an average rainfall of 500 millimeters, which cannot sustain a maize yield.

The food shortage in Shinyanga and Singida became certain when the Food and Agricultural Organisation indicated that Tanzania would be facing the hardship despite favourable rains.

The organisation's report indicated that Tanzania's total cereal production in 1999 would reach 3.76 million tonnes, which is lower than that of 1998 by 10 percent.

Other factors contributing to the precarious food situation include an attack of army worms in Morogoro, Arusha and Kilimanjaro.

Tanzania imported over 550,000 tonnes of cereals in 1998 to curb a looming food shortage.

But the food deficit could not be avoided in 1999 and the Economic Intelligence Unit noted that Tanzania needed to import 600,000 tonnes of cereals to meet the country's food demands.

FAO and the World Food Programme have said Tanzania's Strategic Grain Reserve lacks the capacity to meet emergency food needs, as stocks have been progressively depleted and maintained below target.

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