Murtaza Mangungu

The Public Organisations Accounts Committee (POAC) yesterday directed the Sugar Board to initiate reforms which will encourage investments in potential areas in the industry in a bid to increase production and lower prices.

According to the committee, high sugar prices are largely caused by low supply which has failed to satisfy demand. At the moment, Tanzania produces less than 200, 000 tonnes annually while actual demand ranges between 350, 000 and 400, 000 per year, said Murtaza Mangungu, POAC acting chairman told reporters yesterday in Dar es Salaam shortly after meeting with Sugar Board management.

“That’s why, we want Sugar Board to come up with strategic interventions that would ultimately increase production, and automatically lower the prices,” he said.

The committee advised the board to direct more investments in areas such as Rufiji, Kasulu, Malagarasi, Ikongo which have a big potential for sugar farming. If well organised the respective areas can produce around two million tonnes of sugar, over and above the demand, he observed.

Mangungu said the board should create conducive environment to attract both local and foreign investors to the areas, but noted that special consideration should be given to small-scale producers. “The board needs to make sure that small-scale sugar farmers benefit from these initiatives and reforms,” he added.

Reducing skyrocketing sugar prices is still a big headache to the authorities, with parliamentary watchdog saying enforcement of government’s 1700/- ceiling per kilo has been an uphill task due to market forces and increased production costs.

Government’s interventions stepped up last year to lower prices, have not yielded the anticipated results with sugar price currently standing at 2,800/- per kilo in some upcountry regions.

Mangungu said: “There are many market and production-related forces which makes the enforcement of government directive difficult.”

He said under the current open-market regime, sugar producers in Tanzania were facing stiff competition coupled with increasing production costs, triggered by unreliable power supply.

“We talked to Sugar Board officials, and they presented facts on forces and constraints existing in the sugar industry. Some dealers spent a lot of money to produce the commodity and so cannot sell it at 1700/-,” the POAC acting chairman said, adding: “As members of Parliament, we are also concerned with the suffering of our fellow Tanzanians due to high sugar prices, but market forces and high production costs, remains a major challenge.”

By Judica Tarimo, The Guardian

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