Market prices keep galloping every day with the cost of lowly food items such as beans, sardines and cabbages, which are normally considered to be the cheapest, soaring to alarming levels.
It is high time the government mitigated the life-threatening situation. Inflation, which stands at 19.7 per cent, has been cited as the main cause of the rise in the cost of living.
The National Bureau of Statistics' national consumer price index for last month shows that the price of rice has shot up by 13.6 per cent. The index also shows that the price of bread has been elevated by 2.4 per cent; maize flour (3.0%); wheat flour (3.9%); meat (2.0%); fish (5.2%); fresh milk (2.7%); eggs (3.4%) and vegetables (5.6%), just to sample a few.
Last year, the Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr Mustafa Mkulo, told Tanzanians that the national economy was growing at a healthy 7.0 per cent and that the nation had the fastest growing economy in East Africa. The minister, however, has also said that inflation keeps rising and the rate is now approaching 20 per cent.
These figures do not sound encouraging enough to the nation and do not help the poor, some of whom now live far below the poverty line. Inflation alone cannot trigger such a massive hike in the prices of food items. Other factors in this sorry spectacle have been determined as including the run-away industrial production costs caused by high electricity and fuel tariffs.
And there are other underlying factors that include galloping transportation costs and greed on the part of business people who are keen on making a windfall amid escalating poverty. But, no matter what, Tanzanians have no reason to go hungry.
The nation can swiftly produce an abundance of food. Tanzania has an arable land area that spans more than 40 million hectares or 42 per cent of the total land area. Last year only an estimated 13 per cent of the cultivable area was actually covered by farms.
The farms covered four million hectares with the best agricultural land being in Mbeya, Ruvuma, Rukwa, Iringa and Kilimanjaro.
But it appears transporting food from the countryside to Dar es Salaam and other needy areas remains difficult. In fact, there is no reason whatsoever to have hungry citizens in one area and bumper harvests in another. After all even the Strategic Grain Reserves hold enough food to ward off hunger. So, what is needed is proper coordination and logistical support in moving food items.
It is imperative then that farmers, who make up nearly 90 per cent of the 40 million-strong nation, need a lot of societal support. It is these mostly poor peasant farmers who eke out a meagre living out of farm work and produce surplus to feed the rest of the population.
The food crops grown mainly in the Southern Highlands, the nation's bread basket, are maize, sorghum, millet, paddy, wheat, sweet potato, cassava, pulses and bananas. Hunger never stalks the highlands which comprise, Mbeya, Iringa, Ruvuma and Rukwa regions.
Ironically, while farmers in the Southern Highlands complain that the surplus food stockpiled in their homes is spoiling for lack of markets, residents in Dar es Salaam, Manyara, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Mara and Tabora struggle with pangs of hunger. #
There should be an elaborate mechanism that enables food deficient areas to get supplies from affluent regions. Dar es Salaam, which is connected to the countryside by good transport networks, should have more food on its tables and fewer hungry mouths.
Tanzania is also famous for its large herd of livestock. The nation has 18.6 million head of cattle. It comes third in Africa in this aspect after Ethiopia and Sudan. But Tanzanians drink too little milk and eat far less meat. What is the rationale in this scenario?