Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Government has embarked on a programme to resuscitate horticulture export markets as the international markets continue to show interest to resume trade with Zimbabwe, starting in the 2018-19 season.
Major horticulture products of interest to the international markets are mange tout, sugar snaps, peas, chillies, fine beans, parsnips, baby marrows, sweet potatoes, fruits such as bananas, avocado pears, papaya, oranges and lemons and flowers.
Officially opening a workshop on resuscitating horticulture exports in Zimbabwe, Secretary for Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Mr Ringson Chitsiko yesterday said international buyers were keen to give Zimbabwe a quota of the exports in the 2018-19 season.
The workshop was organised by the ministry in collaboration with a United Kingdom organisation, Oaklands Horticulture Consultancy.
Mr Chitsiko said the horticulture sector was important in ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition in addition to generating the much needed foreign currency and creating employment opportunities.
“I am convinced that horticulture is a sleeping giant. The industry grew rapidly during the 80s and 90s and used to contribute between 3,5 to 4,5 percent of the GDP. The industry was second to tobacco in foreign currency earnings.
“Horticulture exports grew from $3,5 million in 1986 to $32 million in 1991 and reached its peak of $143 million in 1999,” he said.
He said the reason for the growth of the sector was better coordination through the Horticultural Promotion Council, minimum regulatory impediments, market driven production strategy, high profile image on the international market and good infrastructure among other factors, which he said were no longer available. From its peak in 1999, the horticulture industry exports fell to about 472 million in 2005 and 440 million in 2009.
“The resuscitation of the industry is of imperative necessity to the country’s economy as it will bring in foreign currency. Any intervention whose objective is to improve the performance of the sector will continue significantly.
“With the new dispensation, Government is keen to harness all available opportunities for trade. Government has engaged with buyers of fresh produce for the UK and European markets, developing a partnership with Oaklands horticultural consultancy, a UK based company to assist farmers from certification to facilitating the marketing of the products to the UK and Europe,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is ready to engage international markets in line with the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’. I have repeatedly challenged farmers to improve both production and productivity in the resettled farms. Government will provide an enabling environment on support.
“My ministry remains open to innovative and practical ideas of resuscitating the horticulture sector.”
He said the Ministry was also in the process of establishing the Agriculture Marketing and Trade Policy, a Livestock Development Policy, a horticulture Development Policy and a Mechanisation and Irrigation development policy to provide an enabling environment for the ease of doing business.
Other issues that were raised by participants were that some farmers were not aware of the market requirements and therefore there was need to educate time through extension services.
Other participants felt that although they were exporting, the process of applying and getting a permit was cumbersome and there was need to improve since horticultural products were perishable. The ministry said it now had a one order stop shop to make it easier for farmers willing to export their produce to apply for permits.