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Food imports bad for economy of Tanzania

Staff Writer |
Employing about 65.5% of Tanzanians, contributing 29 percent to GDP and comprising 30% of exports and 65% of inputs to the industrial sector, agriculture is the veritable backbone of the economy.

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But one could be forgiven for thinking that adequate public investment is being poured into the sector to add value to the livelihoods of at least 35 million Tanzanians.

Budgetary allocations in the agriculture sector are inadequate and have been the cause of its slow growth, making higher earnings for the rural population a far-fetched dream.

Worse still, poor investment in agriculture has made Tanzania in particular and Africa in general a net food importer, wasting the limited financial resources that could have been invested in the sector and create millions of jobs.

Lack of political will to invest in agriculture in Africa has led to a vicious cycle that could keep costing the continent billions of dollars annually.

The president of the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mr Kanayo Nwanze, says Africa spends $35 billion a year to import food, money that could have been used to create jobs in agriculture. While Africa has a quarter of the world's arable land, it only generates 10 percent of global agricultural output.

Tanzania's food import situation is worrying. Available statistics show that the country spent Sh885.8 billion ($421.8 million) on food and foodstuff imports in the 12 months between May 2015 and May 2016, according to the Bank of Tanzania.

This is equivalent to 88.5 percent of the total budget for the agriculture sector in 2015/16.

Most of imports are food that is not adequately produced in the country such as wheat and of processed food products such as oil, sugar, dairy and poultry products.

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