Kumbirai Tarusarira Business Reporter
Government says it is considering setting up a horticulture department committed to creating a conducive regulatory environment for the sector to adequately thrive, a senior Government official has revealed.
Zimbabwe`s horticultural sector continues to face a number of challenges, the biggest one being on the regulatory environment. This has seen the sector`s contribution to the country`s export earnings declining over the past year.
According to statistics provided by the trade development and promotion body, ZimTrade, the horticulture sector’s contribution to total exports decreased from 2 percent in 2018 to 1,5 percent in 2019, with the aggregate value of exports decreasing from US$19,5 million between Feb-Apr 2018 to US$13,5 million between Feb-Apr 2019.
The decline was mainly due to a drop in exports of leguminous vegetables, nuts and citrus fruits.
The decrease was also attributed to several constraints that have impacted negatively on the competitiveness of the sector, including a lack of foreign currency, regulatory issues, as well as climate and logistical challenges, said ZimTrade.
Permanent secretary for the Ministry of Lands Agriculture Water and Rural Resettlement engineer Ringson Chitsiko said the development was targeted at cushioning farmers towards the development of sound agri-businesses.
“Government is contemplating coming up with a horticulture department committed to ensuring that the sector is cushioned through development of policies and strategies aiming at transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming and agribusiness of our farmers.
“The shift from subsistence to commercial farming is fundamental in the development of rural economy on our way to achieve sustainable inclusive economic growth.
“I believe that effective and efficient coordination of development interventions between research institutes, public and private sector and the farming community is the most essential in making the best use of resources in the agricultural sector,” said Eng Chitsiko.
Government has been on a drive to boost performance of the sector and it earlier this year launched the Zimbabwe Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion project (ZIM-SHEP) which is expected to boost production and improve livelihoods of people in farming communities.
It will contribute towards the realisation of the national vision of a middle income economy by 2030.
The project, which is being sponsored by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will be implemented in eight provinces and will run for five years.
ZIM-SHEP is also expected to promote market access and participation by small-scale farmers, help farmers develop technical and managerial capacity to practice market-oriented horticultural farming.