Compared to the rest of the world, the history of wine in Tanzania is very recent and dates back to just a few years before independence.
Tanzania only has one major grape growing region and it is centered around the capital city Dodoma. The most common grape varietals in the region are Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local variety named for a Dodoma sub-region, Makutupora. Initially wine production and grape growing was limited to missionaries, however, in 1969 the government entered the market with the formation of the Dodoma Wine company.
Vines were first introduced in the country by members of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Holy Ghost in 1938. The missionaries from the Hombolo Catholic mission planted their first vines near the Kondoa District in Dodoma.
Initially the vines grown were used for domestically making wine for religious practises and domestic consumption. In 1957 Passionist Father Irioneo Maggioni, of the Bihawana Mission started his own commercial farm from three vine seedlings out of curiosity and the farm grew rapidly to a commercial scale.
After independence the local government took interest in the industry and made their first investment into a four-acre grape farm at Dodoma Isanga Prison 1961. The programme was very successful and in just three years expanded to 5 of the nearby villages centered around the prison. In 1963, the national service camp in Makutupora also joined the scheme and began growing grapes in the village that created a new center for grape growing around the village. In 1969 the prison built a winery plant and was Tanzania's sole purchaser of grapes for wine production in the country.
In 1979, in a plan to add value for the local farmers the central government invested in a new company and created the Dodoma Wine Company, which directly procured grapes from the farmers for wine production. The company assisted farmers in grape growing practises and set up a research center called the Makutupora Grapevine Research Centre.
International investors mainly from South Africa began to take interest in the industry in the early 1990s. In 1999 South Africa's Distell Group Limited acquired a stake in the local Tanzania Breweries Limited subsidiary Tanzania Distilleries Limited (TDL).
TDL acquired the Dodoma Wine Company and bought the brand of the government. The company brought in investment and skill to the farmers to help manage their farms at a low cost.
The company currently holds the highest market share of wine in country with their flag ship brand "Dodoma Wine".As the company continued to invest in the production capacity, the company also began importing South African wine into the country to help develop the market.
Simultaneously, in 2002 an Italian engineer started the Central Tanzania Wine company, which today is part of the top three company producing wine in the country. Between 1998 and 2013, wine exports in the country skyrocketed and grew by 900 times. In 1998 the country exported 176 kg worth of wine and in 2013 exported 151,221 kg.
Makutupora is a local grape varietal named after a district in the Dodoma Region where it is grown. The Makutupora is a local dry red grape that grows in dry earth, sandy soil with low humidity. There are two harvests seasons a year, in March and August to September
Last year ,at Mtitaa Village in Bahi District, Dodoma Region, a middle- aged farmer Elias Mgwabi and his labourers are trimming down branches from grape plants as fruits begin to grow on his 12-acre vineyard.
The vineyard has become a model farm in the country's major grape growing region, attracting other grape growers to visit and learn on how to improve the cash crop production.
"We normally prune branches without grapes to give room to those with fruits to grow well," says Mgwabi, the 2016 best farmer (Central Zone) in agricultural trade fair which was organized by the Tanzania Agriculture Society (TASO) at Nzuguni grounds in Dodoma Region.
He is one of the beneficiaries of initiatives by the Private Agricultural Sector Support (PASS), a non-profit making and non-governmental organization that aims at stimulating investments and growth in the private sector commercial agriculture through finance accessibility.
In 2014, Mgwabi decided to set up his own wine factory near his vineyard at Mtitaa Village after receiving 40m/- agricultural input loan, thanks to PASS guarantee. The factory is currently producing the Mtitaa Wine. "I also extended my fouracre vineyard by purchasing eight more acres, bringing the total land to 12 acre-vineyard to uplift the level of grape production," says the grape grower, who embarked on the journey of growing grapes eight years ago.
Mgwabi says his vineyard now produces between 60 and 70 tonnes of grapes from only 16 tonnes per year prior to receipt of the loan, pointing out that after establishing his own wine factory he no longer sells grapes. "Previously, one would find many trucks parked here loading grapes after harvests.
But, the trucks now load the processed grapes, into wine, from my Mtitaa Wine Factory," says the father of five-children. His grape wine factory, which is under his own company, Mgwabi Investment Company, has permanently employed seven people while creating an opportunity of reliable market for his fellow grape growers in the village. Tanzania is the second largest producer of wine in Sub- Saharan Africa after South Africa.
Compared to the rest of the world, the history of wine in the country remains nascent, dating back to just a few years before independence. The most common grape variety in Dodoma are Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and local variety named for a Dodoma sub-region, Makutupora. Vines were first introduced in the country by members of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Holy Ghost in 1939. The Missionaries from the Hombolo Catholic Mission planted their first vines near Kondoa District in Dodoma.
Initially, the vines grown were used for domestically making wine for religious uses and domestic consumption. Mgwabi says the idea to set up his own wine factory came up after dishonest traders, who act as middlemen in the grape business, attempted to cheat him out of measurement of grapes on his vineyard, some years back. "They travelled all the way from neighbouring country to Mtitaa village to purchase grapes from my vineyard.
The agreement of price of grapes per kilogramme was great," recalls the grape grower. But, Mgwabi says he was shocked how a weighing scale, which the traders came with, was wrongfully reading as it had been tampered with. "I lost trust in the traders who acted as middlemen in grape business.
After seeking support, PASS agreed to support me to access agricultural input loans from financial institutions," he says. Mgwabi is now optimistic to increase grape production after purchasing the 20-acre farm for grape production, thanks to the 100m/-PASS facilitated and guaranteed loan in 2016 after repayment of the first 40m/- loan. "I've used the current loan to import a modern grape crushing machine from Italy.
The machine will be installed soon in the factory to replace the handoperated machine," he observes. According to PASS Managing Director Nicomed Bohay, about 185,000 smallholder farmers had benefited from loans which were facilitated by PASS in 2016 and that the agricultural input credits have helped to uplift the level of agricultural production in the country.
PASS Managing Director Nicomed Bohay told the 'Daily News' recently that PASS helped farmers to access the agricultural input loans from financial institutions, noting that in total farmers received 101bn/- from banks, which work with PASS. Mr Bohay was speaking at the agro-trade fair at Mashujaa Grounds in Dodoma municipality, recently.
The National Economic Empowerment Council (NEEC) organised the four-day event. He pointed out that PASS had been supporting farmers through provision of credit guarantee cover on credits provided by collaborating financial institutions.
PASS assists eligible individuals and companies to access loans for their viable investment by appraising loan write ups in line with terms and conditions of the banks collaborating with PASS.
The banks currently collaborating with PASS are CRDB, NMB, EXIM, TIB, FBME, KCBL, BOA, ABC, and Akiba Commercial Bank. PASS will enter into a formal contract with client in order to provide the requested services.
After the collaborating bank accepts the client's business plan that was prepared by PASS, there will be further communication between PASS and the collaborating bank on risk sharing between the NGO and the bank.
In the same vein, grape farmers from three districts lack the market of the produce, which is in danger of drying while on the farms, a situation which discourages them to continue cultivation of the crop.
The country has only one major grape growing region and it is centered around the capital city Dodoma. The most common grape varietals in the region are Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local variety named for a Dodoma sub-region, Makutupora
The crop depends on one buyer who had failed to buy it because of the challenges like taxes, lack of preserving areas and packaging materials from abroad which are highly taxed therefore they have requested the government to remove taxes from bottles which are packaging materials so as to avoid the deterioration of the product in the farms.
Explaining, the farmers’ representatives, Job Lembilie and Jairo who have also been affected by the challenge of lack of markets said they expect that the market has been established as Members of Parliament had previously promised them.
The MPs are the ones who sensitised them to cultivate the crop instead of cultivating other products and they decided to concentrate on grape farming which requires enormous expertise during cultivation.
“We have been sensitized by our Members of Parliament to cultivate it, but up to now no one had helped us to find markets, we are obliged to go to a certain industry in town so as to find market. If the government will not intervene in this issue, the crop will dry while still on farms and we will get huge losses and we will fail to repay our loans to the banks and our families will live in abject poverty,” he said.
There are two harvesting seasons annually staring February to March and August coming to September, this is another uniqueness of Dodoma climatic weather conditions whereby there are two seasons instead of one as it is common experience around the world. They are currently requesting the government to attract other investors to invest in the cultivation of the crop instead of depending on one buyer who sets the prices himself.
Apart from challenges of lack of markets, they are also facing another challenge of access to farm implements like pesticides, sometimes they get pesticides which are of low quality or had expired and that damage the grapes and as a result they fail to grow well despite the fact that you have put manure or fertiliser.
They have requested the government to give them extension officers who will visit their farms regularly and give them professional skills on how to cultivate grapes well and increase productivity.
For his part, the owner of the wine factory in Dodoma, Archard Kato, said that, the factory is determined and willing to support farmers by buying their grapes so as to encourage them to continue cultivation.
He said he has very difficult time because he had paid huge tax to the government on bottles which are used as packaging materials. This has made the factory to have few bottles of preserving juice which is used for processing wine.
He requested the government to remove taxes at least for five years for the productivity growth. The production of grape in Tanzania is expensive due to the taxes which are imposed on the crop. He cited the example of South Africa and Ghana where they have removed taxes on grapes.
Farmers from three districts of Bahi, Chamwino and Dodoma Urban are expecting to sell their grapes to the factory and during the two years the factory had been hesitating to buy the crop due to the fact that the preserving materials are scarce.
He said that they have failed to continue to buy the grapes from farmers due to the fact that their main customers who are Tanzania Breweries Ltd are no longer buying their grape juice which is used to make wine and this has affected their capability to buy grapes from farmers.
“If the government will remove taxes on grapes, it will help them to sell the crop at a low price and therefore to get a big market. Imported wine is cheap because the raw materials which are used to produce it is also cheap and are exempted from paying taxes. This makes them more competitive in the market.
My advice to the government is that they should not only focus on supporting the farmers, they should also support the stakeholders who are in business of grapes. There should be a value chain which has a level playing field which will look at the possibility of removing taxes of grapes farming.
The government should reduce some of the taxes to grape farmers so as to make their grapes competitive in the market.
Due to the increase in the demand of grapes in the market, the factory decided to borrow from TIB Bank and CRDB Bank and they have invested the borrowed money on buying machines for preserving grapes juice.
For his part, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Omar Mgumba, has said that the grapes which are cultivated locally lack market because they are expensive in comparison with the imported ones which do not pay taxes and its production costs were low. He said that his ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance will look at ways of solving the challenges facing the grape farmers in the country.
He has promised to visit farmers so as to listen to their challenges and finding ways of solving them including the issue of access to markets and in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance they will look at the issue of reducing taxes for the grape farmers.