Kiyapili Sibanda, Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT should extend the 12 percent export incentive to horticulture farmers to boost their production and increase foreign currency earnings for the economy, farmer organisations have said.
Tobacco is the top agriculture export earner in Zimbabwe accounting for 64 percent of farm product exports followed by cotton at 16 percent and sugar at nine percent, according to official trade statistics.
Horticulture comes fourth at seven percent. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) recently reviewed upwards the export incentive for tobacco growers for the 2018 tobacco marketing season from five percent to 12.5 percent.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director, Mr Paul Zakariya said horticulture farmers should be part of the 12 percent incentive bracket.
“It is not only horticulture farmers that should be given priority in terms of the export incentive but all exporters. Government should have a broader look and give every exportable commodity an incentive in order to provide the much needed foreign currency in the country,” said Mr Zakariya.
According to ZimTrade market surveys and reports, there was market opportunity for horticulture products in South Sudan and the European Union. The study revealed that South Sudan imports almost 100 percent of its consumer goods, including fresh produce, eggs and chicken.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president, Mr Wonder Chabikwa, said horticultural farmers also need the 12 percent export incentive in order to encourage them to produce more. He said this would also help them acquire machinery and capacitate their production.
“Horticulture farmers also need to have an export incentive for the farmers to be able to produce more and beef up the foreign currency reserves. It is very critical because this will help them to acquire machinery like tractors and irrigation equipment,” said Mr Chabikwa.
In July this year, ZFU said it was targeting nearly $200 million worth of exports from the horticulture industry by 2020.
Meanwhile, the summer cropping season is being crippled by high cost of farming inputs with Mr Zakariya saying farmers were not happy with the cost of inputs.
“The farming season is progressing well and the farmers have started planting, everything is in full swing. The challenge is escalating prices of inputs. For example, fertiliser now costs $47 and $48 per 50kg and this is a big challenge to farmers,” he said.
“There is also a shortage of seed varieties in the market. There is absence of the right varieties and this is not good at all since we are in the season already. Also, there is unavailability of Compound D fertiliser in the market and I think something has to be done to address the situation.”
While Government introduced zero rated import duty on farming inputs, Mr Zakariya said persistent foreign currency shortages have impacted badly on commodity supply and access. He urged Government to prioritise farming and ensure all inputs were available on time at right prices.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has predicted the country would generally receive normal rains during the 2017/18 season, with southern parts of the country expected to receive normal to below normal rains.