Apple Farming Emerges as a Promising Business Sector in Tanzania: Insights from SAGCOT Centre’s Zoom Meeting on February 1, 2024

Kilimokwanza.org Team

Apple farming is emerging as a highly promising and profitable agricultural endeavour in Tanzania and Africa. This insight came to light during a Zoom meeting on February 1, 2024, organized by the SAGCOT Centre. The meeting was part of a larger dialogue aimed at exploring agricultural prospects within the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania and other areas in Tanzania that are conducive to apple cultivation. The session boasted contributions from Tamu Tamu Tanzania Director David Runge providing valuable knowledge on the subject. The event was expertly moderated by Ms. Tulalumba Mloge, the Principal Executive Assistant to the CEO of SAGCOT, underscoring the significance of apple farming as a growingly viable and profitable business avenue in these regions.

In his detailed presentation, Runge, the Information Director and Partner at Tamu Tamu Tanzania, outlined the potential and profitability of apple farming in the region. He emphasized that the venture is not just agriculturally viable but also economically rewarding, positioning Tanzania as a potential leader in apple production within Africa.

Tamu Tamu Tanzania’s journey, which began between 2016 and 2017, involves extensive research and development in apple cultivation. The company has successfully introduced and adapted over 50 apple varieties from various global regions to suit the African climate. Out of these, 10 varieties have shown promising results, enabling farmers in different parts of Tanzania and other African countries to choose varieties best suited to their local environments.

Runge underscored five reasons apple farming is a lucrative venture in Tanzania. These include the high market demand and sales prices for locally grown apples, lower water requirements compared to other crops, the diversification of farmer income sources, resilience against climate change, and the longevity of apple trees, which can last for over a century.

The seminar also addressed audience questions, with Ms. Mloge facilitating a lively Q&A session. Participants from various regions, including Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, inquired about the feasibility and specifics of apple farming in their locales. Runge’s responses highlighted Tamu Tamu’s readiness to expand its operations and support apple cultivation across Africa.

Runge extended an invitation for practical, hands-on training at TamuTamu’s farms. This gesture emphasized the company’s commitment to transferring knowledge and skills to local farmers, ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of the apple farming sector in Tanzania and beyond.

Key Insights from Davide Runge on Apple Farming:

  1. Economic Viability with Direct Sales: Apples offer high sales prices, allowing farmers to sell directly to consumers without the need for intermediaries. This unique aspect of apple farming in Tanzania eliminates the complexities of importation, licensing, and transportation, ensuring higher profitability.
  2. Sustainability Through Lower Water Requirements: Unlike other crops that demand continuous irrigation, apple trees enter a dormancy phase during the dry season, reducing water usage and costs. This natural adaptation not only conserves resources but also aligns with the environmental challenges of the region.
  3. Resilience and Diversification: Apple farming introduces a resilient and diversified income stream for farmers. It stands strong against climate change impacts due to its lower water needs and offers a locally produced and sold product, ensuring stability even in times of global trade disruptions.
  4. A Generational Legacy: Highlighting the longevity of apple trees, which can live for over a century, Runge presents apple farming as an investment for future generations, promising improved varieties over the ones introduced by missionaries decades ago.
  5. Guaranteed Market with Quality Varieties: Tamu Tamu Tanzania’s commitment to providing high-performance apple varieties and purchasing the produce for value addition ensures farmers have access to a reliable market. The company’s efforts to produce juice, dried apples, and jams from locally grown apples create a sustainable ecosystem for the crop’s success.

Addressing Farmers’ Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Variety Suitability: Runge clarifies that while apple farming thrives in various African regions, success is contingent on selecting varieties that match the local climate, emphasizing that not all areas are suitable, especially those with high temperatures and low altitudes.
  • Ideal Conditions for Cultivation: He advises that commercial apple farming is best in cooler, elevated areas, cautioning against investment in hot, low-lying regions to ensure agricultural success and sustainability.
  • Market Prospects and Business Viability: With all apples currently imported, local cultivation presents a lucrative market opportunity. Runge shares the enthusiasm of local consumers for apples, indicating a strong demand that farmers can tap into.
  • Cultivation and Care: Offering guidance on tree management, Runge stresses the importance of soil preparation, strategic watering, and specific practices like leaf removal and fruit thinning to enhance tree health and fruit quality.
  • Future Training and Support: Acknowledging the need for ongoing education, Tamu Tamu Tanzania plans to provide hands-on training and online resources in multiple languages, ensuring farmers are well-equipped to embark on apple farming ventures.

Maximizing Apple Production: Runge emphasized the importance of patience and strategic planning in apple farming, outlining a growth timeline where commercial harvesting begins in the third year, gradually increasing to substantial yields by the sixth and seventh years. He advocated for removing early fruit to allow trees to establish robustly, setting the stage for higher future productivity.

Choosing the Right Varieties: The selection of apple varieties is crucial, with considerations for early and late maturing types impacting business outcomes, from cash flow to climate resilience. Runge shared tailored advice for farmers across different Tanzanian regions, ensuring optimal variety selection based on local climatic conditions and altitudinal ranges.

Innovative Cultivation Techniques: Highlighting Tamu Tamu’s approach to cultivation, Runge revealed that the company advises on a planting density of about 450 trees per hectare, promising over 100,000 apples per hectare at peak production. This method underscores the high-yield potential of apple farming when executed with precision.

Research and Development: Tamu Tamu’s commitment to innovation is evident in their rigorous two-year R&D process for each new variety introduced, ensuring only high-performance trees reach farmers. This dedication to quality and performance is a cornerstone of their strategy, aiming to elevate Tanzania’s agricultural standards.

Educational Initiatives and Market Opportunities: Runge discussed Tamu Tamu’s efforts to expand educational resources in multiple languages, catering to a wide audience across the equatorial region. The company’s vision extends beyond cultivation, aspiring to introduce Tanzanians to high-quality apple products, including fresh juice and cider, through direct purchasing and processing of apples from local farmers.

Q&A Highlights:

  1. Geographical Suitability for Apple Farming: In response to queries about where apples can be grown, Davide Runge clarified that while apples can thrive in Nigeria, regions with cooler climates like Jhosi are more suitable for commercial apple farming compared to hotter areas.
  2. Impact of EU Deforestation Regulations: Addressing concerns about the impact of European Union deforestation regulations on apple exports, Runge emphasized TamuTamu’s focus on meeting the high local demand in Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, and beyond, with no immediate plans to export apples to the EU market.
  3. Longevity of Apple Trees in Tanzania: Runge assured that apple trees in Tanzania could live for over 100 years, with existing trees already surpassing 150 years, underlining the sustainable nature of apple farming in the region.
  4. Apple Cultivation in Morogoro: For those interested in growing apples in Morogoro, Runge noted the suitability of the region for certain early-maturing apple varieties, promising a tailored selection based on local conditions.
  5. Organic Farming Practices: TamuTamu champions 100% organic farming practices, utilizing manure and sustainable pest management techniques, highlighting their commitment to environmental and financial sustainability.
  6. Promotion and Disease Resistance: Runge addressed skepticism about widespread apple promotion, asserting that after extensive testing and adaptation, apple farming in Tanzania is viable and largely free from indigenous diseases, owing to the non-native status of apples in the region.
  7. Pest Management and Loss Prevention: While minor pests and birds pose some challenges, TamuTamu employs organic methods to manage these issues effectively, ensuring high-quality produce for juice making and other processes.
  8. Seed Availability and Ordering: Responding to questions about seed acquisition, Runge explained that TamuTamu facilitates easy ordering and delivery of apple tree seedlings, catering to both large orders and individual purchases.
  9. Expected Yields and High-Density Planting: Runge provided insights into the potential yields from high-density apple planting, indicating that with optimal management, significant harvests are achievable, further research and development are ongoing to maximize efficiency and profitability.
  10. Investment Considerations and Support: In closing, Runge underscored the importance of careful planning and investment in apple farming, offering guidance and support through online resources, customer care lines, and community engagement to ensure the success and growth of apple cultivation among local and regional farmers.

A Call for Agricultural Transformation: Through practical training sessions and open farm days, Tamu Tamu is committed to sharing their knowledge and experience, encouraging more farmers to explore apple farming. Runge’s narrative is one of empowerment, envisioning a future where Tanzanian farmers are not just cultivators but also crucial players in a sustainable, profitable agricultural ecosystem.

The insights shared in this SAGCOT Centre-organized meeting underscored the growing importance of apple farming in Tanzania’s agricultural landscape. With companies like TamuTamu leading the way, apple farming is set to become a significant contributor to the country’s economy, offering a sustainable and profitable agricultural venture for Tanzanian farmers and pote