THE Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) has started to implement a special strategy to empower grape farmers in Dodoma region with modern agro technology.
The new development comes following a decision by the government to include grapes among strategic crops.
The director of TARI- Makutupora Centre, Dr Cornel Masawe, told the Daily News during an interview that poor adoption of recommended agronomic practices was the major factor impeding the farmers from getting bumper harvest.
The Makutupora center has been designated to undertake grape researches as well as assisting the farmers to be aware of and adopt best agronomic practices in cultivating the prestigious economic cash crop.
He added that growing grapes was very sensitive, hence farmers are required to acquire enough knowledge and techniques in order to have bumper harvest.
"Growing grapes requires systematic and professional treatment throughout all stages till harvesting," Dr Masawe said, adding: "At the farm, grapes are required to be planted in special trenches, whereby each hectare comprises 20 trenches, under a special dimension of 2.5 meters from one trench to another.
And each trench consumes 1 lorry (5 tonnes) of fertilizer." He expressed that the recently established centre for Agricultural Technology Hub (ATH) in Dodoma region was a major boost to grape farmers, saying the hub will play a vital role to impart the growers with better knowledge.
Among the technologies to be disseminated at the equipped hub, he said, include improved seed technologies, best agronomic practices, post-harvest management, social economy and farming system as well as integrated pest management. Dr Masawe informed that the state - owned seed research institute had so far introduced at least 25 varieties for dry, table and wine grapes, being a bid to propel for mass cultivation of the strategic crop.
"We're currently working on producing more seedlings and make them available to the farmers," he said, adding that the program had already produced at least 100,000 seedlings.
In more efforts to step up production of the grapes and wine sector in Tanzania, Dr Masawe said the center is also finalizing the process to introduce into the country at least 13 new wine grape varieties from South Africa.
The seed varieties to be imported from South Africa, which is a mixture of red and white grafted scions, as well as root stocks, are Pinotage, Cabernet Saviugnon, Syrah, Merlot, Durif and Carignan, Chardonnay, Chenin Black, Semillon, Ramsey, R99, R110 and S04.
Tanzania is placed second after South Africa for brewing the best wines within the continent, but there are only two wine grape varieties grown in the country, Makutupora Red and Chenin White, a situation which limits production of wider varieties of wines.
Research proved that Tanzania has potential to produce grapes with high sugar contents, which is useful in processing wines of high alcoholic percent (from 12 to 14 percent), more than the rest of the countries in the world where the crop is grown.