Tanzanian deputy Minister of Finance and Planning Ashatu Kijaji has complained that the prices of sanitary pads remain high despite the government removing duty on them.
Dr Kijaji told parliament on Tuesday that they had received many complaints by users that the pads are still too expensive, meaning the VAT exemption was only benefiting traders at the expense of women and the government.
“We are looking for the best options that will yield positive impact for the women and the government,” she said, adding that reintroducing VAT could be one of them.
Dr Kijaji said Tanzania was looking to emulate countries like Canada, Nigeria, Australia, Lebanon, India and Kenya, which do not tax sanitary pads to enable women and school girls to access them at affordable prices.
“We went to Kenya to study how they had been undertaking the issue for the underprivileged especially those in rural areas at a fair price,” said the minister.
She said the government was studying the best modalities for supplying the crucial items.
VAT on sanitary pads came into effect in July 2018, after the passing of the 2018/2019 budget.
Early this year, Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said her ministry had received letters urging her to ensure the prices came down.
Women in Tanzania were expected to save a minimum of Tsh7,000 ($3) per year after the removal of the VAT.
Quality sanitary towels are sold between Tsh3,000-Tsh3,500 ($1.30-$1.50) while low-quality ones cost between Tsh1,500-Tsh2,000 ($0.60-$0.90), but these prices are still beyond the reach of many poor women and girls.
Prices of reusable products range from Tsh10,000 ($4.33).
Kenya has been supplying state schools with pads, in accordance with the Basic Education (Amendment) Act, 2016, which has been credited with keeping a big number of girls in school.
Uganda scrapped VAT on sanitary pads in the 2017/2018 budget, which took effect from July 2017.
A 2016 Unesco report estimates that one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa is absent from school during their menstrual cycle.
Dr Kijaji said Tanzania is looking into the possibility of buying pads for schoolgirls.
An official of Malkia Investment, a manufacturer of hygiene products and cosmetics said the high prices were due to the high cost of importing raw materials, plus the high income and excise duties.
“Reducing excise duty would have a significant impact on pricing, since we have to import our raw materials at a cost,” she said.
Most of the sanitary pads in Tanzania are imported. One of the brands, Human Cherish Pads, is from China and costs Tsh2,800 ($1.212) a packet.