Tanzania loses nearly half of its production of cereals every year due to poor storage, lack of harvesting skills and processing facilities, prompting agricultural experts into calling for urgent measures to save the poverty-stricken nation from hunger.

Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperative Raphael Daluti said it is estimated that more than 40 percent of the annual national production of crops is lost or destroyed before reaching consumer market despite efforts  by smallholder farmers to improve agriculture.

Speaking at the ceremony to mark the departure of Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP) fellows to the Netherlands, Daluti expressed the situation as “disastrous” calling for  immediate intervention by the government and stakeholders if the catastrophe is to be avoided.

“There is a need to take stern measures to protect poverty-stricken farmers against the post harvest losses which affect their living standard and the national economy as well,” he said.

He said in a bid to improve food security, there must be deliberate efforts along the entire value chain to ensure that cereal crops were harvested, processed and stored properly to minimize the loss.

Citing training to food security experts as a part of the long-term scheme to overcome the loss of crops, Daluti said  65 students from Tanzania will join Masters Degree course and short courses in the respective area in Holland this year, courtesy of  the Netherlands Alumni Association of Tanzania (NAAT).

NAAT President  Nesia Mahenge said the number of recruits makes Tanzania one of the top beneficiary countries in the programme that deals with agriculture and food security.

“Since early 70’s, some 5,000 Tanzanian mid-career professionals from the government institutions, small businesses and NGOs have been awarded fellowships in the Netherlands,” Dutch Ambassador Jaap Frederiks said, adding that NFP had been in the fore in contributing to human re source development and capacity building in developing countries.

“We receive three applications for short-courses, Masters Degrees and PhD in key international education institutes in the Netherlands,” thanks to NFP that is initiated and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she said.

She said NFP for Tanzania focuses on the priority sectors in economic cooperation between Tanzania and Netherlands such as energy, infrastructure, agriculture and food security, financial service and private sectors development.

The Dutch development cooperation priorities also enables fellows to apply for courses in health, water management, security and the rule of law.

A beneficiary of the programme Warioba Nyakawe, an employee of the Ministry of Finance Department of External Finance said courses offered by Dutch government enables Tanzania to find solutions to various challenges facing the country.