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HomeAfricaThe Russia-Ukraine war plays out on Tanzanian streets and dining tables

The Russia-Ukraine war plays out on Tanzanian streets and dining tables

The budget for agriculture was raised sharply by nearly 250 per cent in 2021/2022.

By Seif Kabelele

Tuzo Mapunda, a resident of Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam, was stung by a 20 per cent increase in the price of bread.

He lamented that the bread that he used to buy purchases for TSh500 (about 0.22 US$) now costs TSh600 (roughly 0.26 US$), and the one he previously bought at TSh1,000 (about 0.43 US$) now costs TSh1,200 (roughly 0.52 US$). “If things continue to be this bad, I don’t think we will be able to eat three meals a day.”

Not only has the price of bread risen, but practically all snacks and nibbles made from wheat are also now more expensive.

Rehema Hussein, a food petty trader at Tabata in Dar es Salaam, said that since she decided to raise the price of some of her products, the number of her clients has dropped. “Almost all wheat, cooking oil, cornmeal, and rice are sold at a higher cost”, she said.

“We were compelled to charge a high price. We used to have up to 100 clients a day, but now I’ve lost at least 20 to 30 customers.”

The Tanzanian Ministry of Industries and Trade’s data confirms an increase in the cost of all grain crops in markets across all regions.

In June 2022, the wheat price was TSh196, 240 (about 85.3 US$), up 61 per cent over the same month the previous year, according to the data.

The average cost of a 100-kilogramme bag of maize has climbed by 93 per cent to TSh88, 019, or about 38.2 US$.

The cost of rice, beans, and sorghum has increased by 34 per cent, 5 per cent, and 21 per cent respectively.

War Felt In Tanzania

Hussein Sufian, corporate affairs director for Bakhresa Group, one of the largest companies in Tanzania that trades in a range of products including food and beverages, is clear about what to blame for the wheat price hikes – the Russian-Ukrainian war, and the resulting blockade and mining of the Black Sea trade route carrying commodities from one of the world’s biggest producer of wheat and vegetable cooking oil.

This global disruption has illustrated in a very stark way, the fact Tanzania’s annual domestic wheat consumption estimated to be more than 1 million tonnes per year, is miles away from being met by the country’s total yearly production which is just 93,184 tonnes, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). As a result, Tanzania imports the majority of the wheat it uses.

The situation is becoming much more problematic due to increases in transportation expenses brought on by rising oil prices. Despite government initiatives, fuel prices in Tanzania are at their highest levels ever recorded and are continuing to rise.

Deputy Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade, Exaud Kigahe, however, sees some hopeful signs. He said the prices are beginning to fall due to various reasons, including the government’s efforts to encourage even small-scale industries to increase production, and move that decreased duty on imported crude oil to zero per cent in the 2022–23 budget.

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High Cost Of  Inputs

But, there are many fronts on which the battle to keep food on Tanzanian tables will have to be won.

Farmers in the western Katavi region synthetic manure to shorten the ripening period of their crops, but things aren’t so rosy for them this time.

Shija Mashala, a farmer who grows maize in the Kasekese village, said he feared the price for a 50-kilogramme bag of fertiliser might reach TSh102,000 (about 45 US$) soon, a figure they have never encountered before.


“To fertilise one acre, we need at least two bags, each costing TSh204,000 (about 90 US$). Imagine if you had to do ten acres,” he said.

Climate conditions have conspired to darken the picture. Based on current trends, Mashala projected that the Katavi region’s maize situation was “bad” and that the unpredictable rainfall would prevent them from producing as much as in past years. “We are failing this year. With this drought, we won’t have a crop. We won’t have enough money to purchase fertiliser.”

Glory Lukenda, one of the fertiliser salespeople at Mpory Matamba II, confirmed that the cost of fertiliser has increased.

“Urea was sold at TSh55,000 (around 24 US$) for a 50-kilogramme bag last season, whereas DAP planting fertiliser was sold for Sh71,000 (about 31 US Dollar) for a 50-kilogramme bag. Their prices have nearly quadrupled.”

“The issues at the border [with Kenya] and transportation contribute to the delay,” he said. “Most of the fertilizer we rely on comes from Morocco and other countries in the world.

Faridu Abdallah, the regional agriculture officer for Katavi, observed that in addition to the Russia-Ukraine war, the knock-on effects of Covid-19, which threw supply lines in disarray, have contributed to the grim fertiliser outlook.

Mobile Kilimo

Against this, from the ends of the field, innovation in the food sector is continuing to hold out the prospects of better outcomes.

More than 6.9 million farmers in the nation will soon be a part of the mobile “kilimo” system, which connects them over the phone with extension officials and other agricultural experts in various regions.

Former Minister of Agriculture Japhet Hasunga launched the system on May 18, 2020.

The Ministry has set itself a deadline of December 2022 to complete the registration of 6.9 million farmers, which was the Government’s target, as of July 2021. As of that date, the system had registered two million farmers.

With 6,970 extension officers nationwide, there is one officer for every 727 people on average. Depending on their needs, a single officer can assist anywhere between 20 and 50 farmers in a single day.

In most countries in Africa, there is less than one extension worker for every 1,000 farmers, according to Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which judges that many governments have underinvested in extension services.

Is It Enough?

Does it add up? According to data from Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 6.7 per cent of the country’s households, or 7.6 million families, were involved in agriculture, livestock, and fisheries last year.

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With an estimated 58 million people, data for Tanzania suggest that at least three out of every four people work in agriculture, which accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP.

Despite popular claims about a country shifting to services, agriculture still accounts for the largest portion of the GDP, supplies the majority of industries’ raw materials, and employs the greatest proportion of the labour force. Tanzania’s agriculture has been growing in actual terms from TSh21.8 trillion (US$9.2 billion) in 2012 to TSh32.2 trillion (US$14 billion) in 2020.

The administration has avoided the “changey economy” narrative in its policy declarations, keeping to the facts, and emphasising the issues that have affected agriculture since independence.

Some of these factors are under the control of both the government and farmers, but they must be managed if agriculture is to flourish.

One of the main causes of underperformance in agriculture is reliance on rain. Another is the global economic system. Buyers of cash crops from wealthy, industrialised nations set the prices they pay farmers in developing nations, while at the same time fixing the costs of the farm equipment and supplies they sell to these countries.

Industrialised nations also give their farmers billions of dollars in subsidies so they may “compete” with subpar farmers in underdeveloped nations. In these circumstances, no amount of productivity growth can save African farmers from financial ruin.

The government has gone further down in the trenches. The budget for the Ministry of Agriculture was raised sharply from TSh294 billion (roughly 127.8 million US$) in 2021/2022 to TSh751.1 billion (roughly 327 million US$), an increase of nearly  250 per cent.

Big Money Push

Agricultural research, seed production, irrigation, building warehouses, improving extension services, and expanding access to fertiliser by subsidising and removing Value Added Tax (VAT) for locally produced commodities, are several of the areas that the agricultural budget provided for.

Irrigation is specifically given about half of the budget, an increase of more than eight times over the previous financial year’s budget. In the fiscal year 2022–2023, the government intends to spend TSh361.5 (about 157 million US$).

The budget for extension services increased o from TSh11.5 billion (5 million US$) to TSh15 billion  (6.5 million US$).

The most practical plan for the country’s goal of creating eight million new employments in five years (2020-2025) is youth and female participation in agriculture. The adoption of District Agricultural Development Plans (DADPs) will hasten the development of jobs, promote food security, and boost regional and national income.

There is hope for the growth of Tanzania’s food systems with programmes like DADPs. There is still much to be done, including offering the participants in the agricultural value chains business development services. These services help micro and small farmers’ operations grow and become more profitable.

If the magic doesn’t happen, it won’t be because the many hands in Tanzania working to ensure all are well fed didn’t swing. It will be because they swung, but missed.

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