Earlier on in the year, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli ordered authorities to control importation of sugar under special permits. The President revoked local import permits, which are usually issued to traders to import sugar for domestic consumption.
The move has resulted in a never ending debate both in parliamentary quarters and local manufacturers with soft drink manufacturers crying foul over the President’s directive.
“Ever since president Maagufuli restricted the issuance of sugar import permits, civil servant don’t want to take the responsibility in even allowing clearance of stock that were validly imported,” said a manager of one of the bottling companies.
A Parliamentary committee for Agriculture, Livestock and Water, Mary Nagu, asked President John Magufuli to lift the ban on importation of sugar, saying there was a deficit in the country. She said that after a meeting with officials from the Sugar Board of Tanzania (SBT) on March 24, her committee was informed that there was a deficit of between 80,000 and 100,000 tons of sugar. “Our duty as legislators is to advise the government accordingly and we believe that if the government will grant permits for importation of 100,000 other tons from outside, we will not experience any sugar shortage,” Ms Nagu expressed.
Speaking at State House in Dar es Salaam, President Magufuli made it clear that his intention was to protect local producers of the this precious commodity. “Our factories buy sugarcane from smallholder farmers. These factories produce sugar, provide employment and are a source of government revenue. Although we have enough of our own stock, there are people in government still arbitrarily issuing permits to import sugar,” was his verbatim response on the matter.
Ms Nagu said her committee was supporting Dr Magufuli’s directive on the importation of sugar, but added that there should be proper mechanism that would ensure that there was enough sugar in the country so that the price of the commodity is not increasing.
By end of June this year, Tanzania’s sugar shortage had resulted in prices have risen from Tsh2,000 ($1) per kilogramme to Tsh3000 ($1.5) a kilo above the government indicative price of Tsh1800 ($0.90) a kilo in Dar es Salaam . The government’s decision to import some 70,000 tonnes in May did not do much to help the situation.
A satisfactory solution is yet to be found even as sugar prices escalate, with the only foreseeable way out being a lift of the ban