Tanzania has banned the export of food grain following concerns over an increase in food smuggling to neighbouring countries.
At the weekend, the authorities seized 10 trucks of food products reportedly heading to Kenya at Tarakea in North Tanzania.
Speaking at a national Eid al-Fitr ceremony in northern Tanzania's Kilimanjaro region, Prime Minister Kassim Majira warned that food smuggling threatens food security in the country.
“From today on, whoever will be caught smuggling food to neighbouring countries, the contraband cargo will be confiscated and handed to the National Food Reserve, and the truck used for smuggling will be donated to the Police Force” he said.
The government would now only allow export of processed food items such as maize flour because that will benefit local industries.
He added that businesspeople should take food products from where they are abundant and sell them where there is scarcity.
Tanzania is also seeking to stem rising local prices and rein in inflation.
Food is the biggest driver of inflation in the country, which exported more than 1.5 million tonnes of cereals to neighbours in 2016, according to the Agriculture ministry estimates.
Tanzania's inflation rate slowed to 6.1 per cent year-on-year in May from 6.4 per cent a month earlier, but remains higher than the country's mid-term target of 5 per cent.
Despite producing around 3 million tonnes of surplus food in the 2015/16 harvest season, officials say smuggling has dwindled food reserves in a nation struggling with drought.
In February, the government said over 1 million Tanzanians were facing food shortages in the country of over 50 million.
In a report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said drought in East Africa has sent prices of staples such as maize and sorghum soaring in the region, reaching record and near-record levels in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
FAO said crops in East Africa had been depleted by drought exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon that ended last year, and poor and erratic rainfall in recent months.
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Kenya has recently been hit by severe food shortages, in particular maize, the staple food in East Africa. The situation has opened up market opportunities for Tanzanian businesspeople.
Reporting Reuters and BBC.