Small-scale farmers explore Dutch markets ZimTrade client advisor Kupakwashe Midzi highlighted the importance of supporting small-scale farmers to gain knowledge and skills to improve their agricultural practices.

Fildah Gwati

SMALLHOLDER horticulture farmers’ quest to explore lucrative European Union (EU) markets got a boost recently with 10 of them visiting the Netherlands for an appreciation of EU market expectations from the production processes to produce quality.

Under the facilitation of the national trade development and promotion organisation’s (ZimTrade) Horticulture Masterclass programme in partnership with PUM and CBZ Holdings, the programme was launched last year to strengthen and grow the export capacity of farmers.

According to ZimTrade the visit which, ended last Friday, was designed to provide farmers with knowledge and skills on growing produce for the EU market. This includes product export requirements, advanced farming practices and insights into the horticultural products in high demand in the EU market. 

“The farmers visited well-established organic retail stores, pack houses and horticultural farms in the Netherlands. These visits allowed them to gain valuable insights on how to enhance the quality and value add horticultural produce for the EU market using sustainable farming practices,” explained ZimTrade. 

The visit provided the small-scale farmers with an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the EU market’s demands, including products such as blueberries, avocados and stone fruits.

ZimTrade client advisor Kupakwashe Midzi highlighted the importance of supporting small-scale farmers to gain knowledge and skills to improve their agricultural practices. 

“Exports to the EU not only contribute to sustainable export development but also provide the much-needed income and community support for these farmers,” he said.

By diversifying their produce, the farmers can tap into the EU’s growing demand for superfoods and organic produce driven by consumers’ increasing health consciousness.

The farmers were impressed by the technologies in greenhouse production and water conservation methods that promote sustainability and address climate change challenges.

Manicaland based farmer, Mr Ben Muchedzi, who was on the Netherlands trip said: “We had the opportunity to see different technologies in greenhouse production and water conservation methods aimed at promoting sustainability in production and curbing the current climate change crisis.” 

Government is moving to expand the country’s export opportunities through the signing of trade agreements such as the citrus protocol with China in 2022, which grants Zimbabwean companies opportunities to export citrus to one of the world’s top citrus importers. 

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-EPA), providing duty and quota-free access to the EU market, thereby creating additional profit incentives for local companies engaging in exports.

While progress has been made in improving horticulture trade, there is still a need for continued focus on promoting smallholder farmers’ access to export markets. Evidence from regional countries, such as Kenya, demonstrates that empowering small-scale farmers significantly enhances trade outcomes.

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