Tanzania: Taskforce to Address Grape Farmers' Woes Gathers Momentum

TASKFORCE to address serious challenges, which include taxation burdens, insufficient inputs, few professionals and lack of real-time statistics, which are threatening grapes' farmers' progress in Dodoma, was yesterday formed by the government.

Dodoma Region has at least 2,700 grape farmers with some reports suggesting that the potential farmers could exceed 10,000, but only few survive in the business.

Industrial players, however, noted that poor knowledge on post-harvest handling of the crop, as well as inappropriate post-harvest technologies, have collectively reduced the crop's quality and sometimes resulted into big wastes.

They also hinted on their constraints as high production and transport costs, poor extension services, and limited access to market information as well as lack of credits to enhance their activities.

To boost the crop's production, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe met farmers, processors, and policymakers in the ministry as well as some from the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance and Planning, where he issued a ten-day ultimatum to them to among other things, propose the best commercial model that would establish Grapes Cooperative and engage also the largest off-takers (industry processors).

In the meeting that was also attended by representatives from some financial institutions, research groups, the private sector, Regional Commissioner's office and local government authorities, he said that the players would be charged with providing technical counselling to the cooperatives and the Agricultural Marketing Co-operative Societies (AMCOS) of smallholder grape farmers.

"Other terms of reference, the report should strive to answer questions, such as how much is the annual grape production and establish the demand for off-takers," he said.

The report, he said, must be commercially based and not a thesis with theories, but must be designed to address key problems, which face grape farmers.

"This is the beginning of a brighter journey for farmers, processors and the government," he said, adding that:

"I want the private sector to also fully get involved, as well as other ministries to ensure the document represents the entire key sub-sector stakeholders."

Dodoma is the only region in Tanzania that grapes are cultivated, but its value chain is hampered by both pre and post-harvest constraints, which result into unnecessary losses.

One of the stakeholders, Mr Archard Kato, Managing Director of Alko Vintages Company Limited cited 25 percent import duty imposed on their packaging and labelling, for instance, had been disrupting penetration of the Dodoma based wine into the local and international markets.

"We're hosting and facing at least 28 government institutions for routine inspections and pay taxes, which we also think adds-up to the cost of operations," said Ms Katrin Mwimbe of the Domiya Estate Limited.

Many of the stakeholders lamented over hefty import duties and sometimes controversial samples' tests being charged by Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) unnecessarily drawing them back.

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