Tanzania ends food export ban after surplus harvest

DAR ES SALAAM Thu Oct 7, 2010 11:37am EDT

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has temporarily lifted a ban on food exports after harvest figures showed the country would record a surplus of grain production this year as government farm subsidies start to pay off.

Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said on Thursday easing restrictions involved the commercial export of maize grain and flour.

"The government has temporarily lifted the ban on the export of maize grain and flour ... due to good harvests and success in the implementation of the government's Agriculture First strategy," said a statement issued by the PM's office.

Tanzania suspended food exports in January 2009 to stabilise domestic prices following drought and a rise in food prices on the world market.

The east African country's year-on-year inflation rate rose to 6.6 percent in August from 6.3 percent in July.

Inflation rates in east Africa often depend on weather because food carries significant weight in consumer price baskets. The region relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and drought in the past few years has hit its economy badly.

Pinda said Tanzania had a surplus of 1.4 million tonnes of food.

"We have 12.8 million tonnes of food, including 7.7 million tonnes of grain. This represents 112 percent of the nation's total food requirement," the prime minister was quoted as saying.

He said the government had instructed the state-run strategic grain reserve to buy 200,000 tonnes of surplus food harvest from farmers.

Neighbouring Kenya, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the main importers of food from Tanzania.

Pinda said government investment in fertiliser supply and other subsidies to farmers were starting to pay off. The country plans to modernise the agriculture sector so that the majority peasant farmers replace the hand-held hoe with tractors.

Tanzania has been struggling to feed its estimated population of 40.7 million, and the government has to frequently appeal for food aid from donors to meet local production deficits.

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