Natasha Chamba, Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S horticulture sector is set to contribute 10 percent of the country’s total export earnings in the near future riding on anticipated rise in demand from new markets across the globe, Zimtrade has said.
In 2018 horticultural exports recorded more than US$112 million compared to US$50,9 million earnings in 2017. Exporters believe the jump in exports was driven partly by the supply of produce the country was previously not exporting.
Zimtrade has said the horticulture sector was strategic to the economy given its potential in job creation, poverty alleviation and generating foreign currency along the value chain. ZimTrade described horticulture as a “sleeping giant” that could be used to turn around the economy.
“We want to take our place as one of the largest contributors of exports. In the near future we are targeting to return back to the 10 percent contribution of the country’s total exports,” Zimtrade said.
“Last year’s total exports were at around US$3,2 billion and we are targeting the horticultural exports to reach 10 percent of that amount (US$320m). This will be done through working together with established companies, small scale growers and the outside world.”
Horticulture is viewed as a “low hanging fruit” given the short term nature of its products such as passion fruit, fine beans, peas, blueberries, carrots, baby corn, baby marrow, courgettes, chillies and broccoli. Zimtrade also said farmers could capitalise on “super-foods” that are increasingly becoming popular in developed markets such as avocados, moringa, turmeric, berries and broccoli.
In previous years the country has been experiencing an increase in exports to European countries. The Middle East has become an emerging market that the country is targeting for exports.
“Asia, especially China, also presents an opportunity on the basis of the size of those markets and growing consumer demand in line with rising consumer spending power,” said Zimtrade.
“The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement has also revised downwards by 42 percent fees for exporters to use necessary services pertaining to Plant Pests and Diseases Act following our intervention.”
Exporters had previously expressed concern over the high cost of the export permit and other regulatory instruments that have been prohibitive to the industry. Zimtrade has been busy working around these prohibitive instruments and has engaged various stakeholders.
Zimtrade also said a lot of initiatives have been done on a larger scale to return Zimbabwe to the top as the best horticulture and floriculture supplier on the intentional market as was the case during the years 1999 to 2000. Horticulture exports grew from US$3,5 million in 1986 to US$32 million in 1991, contributing between 3,5 percent to 4,5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), and were second to tobacco in foreign currency earnings.
The exports nose-dived between 2000 and 2008, before bouncing back to US$71 million in 2012 and US$96 million in 2015. Agricultural experts believe that the major reasons for the growth during the period include better co-ordination through the Horticultural Promotion Council, minimum regulatory impediments, market-driven production strategy, high-profile image on the international market and good infrastructure, in addition to abundant land and huge potential for irrigation water.
The Ministry of Agriculture is already working on an Agriculture Marketing and Trade Policy, centred on horticulture development and has its focus on the ease of doing business. —@queentauruszw