Tanzania Policy Dialogue Highlights Importance of Post-Harvest Loss

Tanzania has made progress in reducing food insecurity in recent years; for example, according to the latest IFPRI Global Hunger Index, the percentage of children under five suffering from wasting fell from 7.9 percent in 1988-1992 to 3.8 percent in 2010-2014 and the percentage of children under five suffering from stunting fell from 49.7 percent to 34.7 percent in the same period. However, with 30 percent of the population suffering from some sort of food insecurity, it is clear that greater gains are still needed.

This was the take-away from a food policy dialogue held in Tanzania in December 2015, organized by IFPRI and REPOA. The event focused on how reducing post-harvest losses could enhance food security, as well as on the role played by informal cross-border trade. These two topics were identified as important to the country during previous policy dialogues and form the core of follow-up reports that are currently underway.

The dialogue brought together nearly 100 participants, including representatives from IFPRI, REPOA, the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the European Commission, and Sokoine University of Agriculture.

In their opening presentation, Maximo Torero and Teunis van Rheenen of IFPRI laid out some of the challenges that Tanzania (and Africa more generally) currently faces in regards to food and nutrition security. These include a rapidly growing population, especially in urban areas; water scarcity; low agricultural yields; climate change impacts; childhood malnutrition; and rising food prices. The presentation pointed out that while these challenges are not new, they have simultaneously emerged with a new intensity in recent years.

Drs. Torero and van Rheenen also highlighted several important steps that Tanzania’s leaders can take to address these challenges and ensure future food security, including investing in agricultural research and development, linking smallholders to modern markets and value chains, eliminating unfair or distortionary trade policies, and increasing women’s equal participation in agricultural markets.

According to Dr. Lucas Katera’s (REPOA) presentation on post-harvest losses (PHL), Tanzania loses an estimated 10.7 percent of its paddy rice crop, 12.5 percent of its sorghum crop, and 15.5 percent of its maize crop to various types of post-harvest losses along the value chain (from harvest through final consumption). However, the presentation went on to point out that food loss is not only a problem of quantity; many parts of the country, while they may have adequate quantities of food, suffer from malnutrition caused by consumption of lower quality foods. Thus, policies to deal with post-harvest loss need to look not just at crop losses, but also at the deterioration of food quality. In addition, measurements of PHL need to be expanded to take into account final consumption at the household level in order to more accurately estimate just how extensive loss is across the country.

The discussion of informal cross-border trade led by Dr. Donald Mmari (REPOA) began with an explanation of the common drivers of such trade – long distances to domestic markets and farmers’ limit access to financing and market information. In addition, restrictive trade policies such as quotas and export bans make it more attractive for producers to bypass the formal trade sector and engage in informal trading activities. However, REPOA’s presentation pointed out that there remains a significant knowledge gap regarding the extent of informal cross-border trade in Tanzania, as well as exactly who participates in this trade and what the major destinations are for informally traded goods. More routine data collection needs to take place along Tanzania’s border posts, and researchers need to identify appropriate methodologies to study these questions related to informal cross-border trade.

Finally, a presentation by Professor Andrew Temu of Sokoine University of Agriculture discussed the need for improved food data, information, and policy analysis in Tanzania in order to meet the country’s development goals as well as international goals like the SDGs. Dr. Temu pointed out that these data and information needs will require coordinated efforts from both the public and the private sector.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Flickr: Rod Waddington