Dar es Salaam. There is a critical shortage of sugar for industrial use caused by delays in cargo clearance at the Dar es Salaam Port.

The delays are due to a series of verifications by customs officials to avoid dumping the sugar as table sugar for domestic consumption, Industry, Trade and Investment minister Charles Mwijage said.

He told The Citizen yesterday that manufacturers should not worry as the sugar that is a crucial raw material for the production of beverages, juices, biscuits and other snacks, will be released soon.

“Today I’m scheduled to meet a team that was mandated with undertaking the verification of the sugar consignment to get updates on the matter, Mr Mwijage said.

For their part, some manufacturers said they have already started to scale down production due to the shortage.

The Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) said consignments consisting of thousands of tonnes of sugar for industrial use have been stranded at the port for over two months now due to delays in the clearance process.

“The shortages could affect future expansion plans for the industries,” according to CTI chairman Samuel Nyantahe. Some manufacturers are worried that they may be forced to stop production or shut down completely from next week should the customs fail to release the sugar.

The fear is this would put hundreds of jobs, in the already shaky employment market, at risk.

Minister Mwijage assured manufacturers, however, that the government would not cause the closure of industries.

“I don’t think it will reach the stage of closing down the industries. We need them (manufacturers) to continue operating so that we collect tax,” Mr Mwijage told The Citizen.

Iringa Foods and Beverages managing director Suhail Thakore said production in his plant dropped by 24 per cent last month and the forecast is that it will fall further to 40 per cent this month if its 32 tonnes of sugar continues to be held at the port.

“We currently have a stock that is sufficient for ten days’ production. Our December turnover dropped to Sh800 million from a monthly average of Sh1.5 billion,” he noted adding that jobs for 160 people, employed by the company, are at stake.

Iringa Foods and Beverages, which manufactures candy, sauces, chocolates and cocoa powder, has halted a Sh2.2 billion investment plan in new machinery, according to Mr Thakore.

“We had already constructed the warehouse. We were about to install new machinery, but we are discouraged by the state of affairs,” he said.

Its production capacity for four products, namely, candy, sauces, chocolates and cocoa powder, stands at 310 tonnes per month.

Tanga-based Anjari Soda Factory managing director Hatim Anjari said his company, whose 144 tonnes of industrial sugar is stranded at the port, has reduced production by two third due to shortage of the raw material.

“We have had to shut down some production lines because we haven’t enough raw materials to operate in full swing,” said Mr Anjari.

The reduction in production will enable the available raw materials last for 10 more days.

“After a month I would have no option than shutting down the factory unless our sugar is released. I can’t opt for domestic sugar as it is very expensive,” noted Mr Anjari.