Zitto Kabwe

Zitto Kabwe

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated this yesterday when it met the sugar board members on an occasion also attended by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives.

It came to light in the meeting that the current board can no longer resolve problems because its members have business interests in the sugar sector.

The PAC Chairman Zitto Kabwe said the country faced illegal sugar importation simply because the sugar board members were involved in the importation of sugar and manufacturing.

He called for the amendment of the law not to include persons with business interests in the sugar sector.

A new board comprising persons with no interest should be appointed, he added.?We want people who have mandate to regulate the price and control importation.?

Also the PAC ordered SBT to invite investors to the sector to produce gap sugar using sugar cane from farmers.

Zitto accused the current board of protecting the existing investors at the expense of farmers who produce plenty of sugar cane but gain nothing under the present circumstances.

The committee challenged SBT for protecting investors, citing the low cane sugar price compared to that stated by the investors.

?For example, the price of sugarcane per tonne is Sh69,000 in Kilombero while in Mtibwa one tonne is sold at Sh50,000.

This is unfair. While all this happens, the board is just keeps quiet, why?? asked the committee chairman.

Kabwe said the farmers have no voice in deciding the price of their own product, with members of the committee joining in by revealing that cane growers stay for three years without their produce being harvested.

The committee further revealed that 400,000 tonnes of sugar cane, which could produce 40,000 tonnes of sugar were still with the farmers, instead of being sent for processing at the Kilombelo Sugar Company.

He added that the amount of sugar cane which remains every year because of lack of market makes a loss of Sh22 billion.

In defence, the SBT said smuggling of sugar which has now generated about 157,000 tonnes is the major cause of sugar scam because the smuggled sugar is always sold cheaply.

The board said it has not offered any importation permits for the last two years.

The PAC advised the board to work as regulator of every thing regarding the sugar sector instead of protecting investors.

The committee alerted the SBT the new board should not include members of Parliament while ordering the Tanzania Revenue Authority ?to conduct a general study of tax in sugar sector and we are waiting for the report,? Zitto said.

The SBT and PS promised the committee to adopt all recommendations made by PAC to end the problems.

Meanwhile, SBT told the committee that the presence of illegal sugar in the country is contributed by poor distribution of the product.

The PS told PAC that the ministry plans to present a bill in Parliament to amend sugar laws.

He added that they were in the process of forming a new board, which would take into account all the recommendations made by PAC.

By Aisia Rweyemamu, The Guardian

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