Reports in the British press, not so far denied in Tanzania, continue to forecast severe food shortages amounting to famine in parts of Tanzania early in 1982. The situation is unclear, but it does seem that the official view, reported in the summer issue of the Bulletin (no.13), that there would be sufficient surplus in some areas to meet the shortage in others was over optimistic. The appearance of a plague of grain eating insects, the Greater Grain Borer (prostephanus trancatus), over a wide area in central Tanzania may partly be responsible for upsetting the government’s calculations. This beetle, locally known as scania, both in the adult and larval stages will damage a wide range of commodities, including various roots and tubers, cereals, pulses, coffee beans and groundnuts. It is known to be able to breed successfully only on maize and in dried cassava. It is a serious pest of maize on the cob and is principally associated with small farm stores in parts of Mexico, Nicaragua and Tanzania. After 3 to 6 months storage of maize cobs on some Tanzanian farms, weight loss of as much as 33% was recorded; the average was approximately 10%. So far, prostephanus truncatus has not proved to be an important pest in large storage structures. The Tropical Products Institute (a British Government organisation) has made proposals to the Tanzanian Government on the control of this pest.
The measures taken by the Tanzanian Government to rectify the shortages are not well known, but are believed to include deliveries from Canada, Japan, the United States and the European Community. The Government may have experienced difficulties on account of the very grave shortage of foreign exchange – in July the Financial Times reported that reserves had fallen to £600,000, barely two days’ requirements. A news agency report early in October stated that the Government estimated that it would need to import 87 million dollars worth of food before June, 1982.
It is planned to protect next year’s food supply by a directive from the Party requiring all villages to establish a minimum of 100 hectares of food for cash crops, to be cultivated communally for sale to Government organisations.