PLAYERS in the horticulture sector have resolved to establish a National Horticultural Development/Promotion Authority as a way of reviving the once-vibrant sector in Zimbabwe, it has emerged.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Information gathered from ZimTrade, the country’s export promotion body, indicates that over 150 stakeholders in the horticulture sector, who recently converged in Harare, have pledged to put heads together in an effort to revive the sector.
The authority, according to ZimTrade, would represent the sector interests across all levels and would also be the custodian of the national horticulture strategy.
“The strategy aims to localise the global gap quality standard (a voluntary certification for various agricultural products), which will unlock access to lucrative regional and international export markets,” ZimTrade said.
To continue the revival of the horticultural sector, which in the 1990s was a key export revenue generator contributing $142 million to the gross domestic product (GDP), the conference further resolved to emulate regional success stories such as Kenya’s horticulture model, which is anchored on the smallholder farmer; learn from the local tobacco industry, which is mainly based on contract farming as a funding strategy; use ICT tools to disseminate market intelligence as well as use alternative energy such as solar and wind at farm level.
The horticulture sector is currently in the doldrums with indications that in 2013 the country earned less than $40 million from horticulture exports.
At its peak, the sector was the second largest foreign currency earner after tobacco, contributing an average 4% of GDP.
The country exported about 85% of its flowers to the Netherlands while about 90% of the total fresh vegetables landed in Britain, South Africa, Zambia and Namibia and 80% of fruits were consumed by British and South African markets.
According to a report by ZimTrade in 2012 on horticulture, challenges faced by the sector include power outages which grossly affect fresh produce exports because they require certain temperatures to be maintained and also affect irrigation of the crops.
Labour shortages in the sector, compounded by low wages, have affected production because most farm workers are opting for gold/diamond panning as a source of livelihood.
Access to finance has been the biggest bottleneck in the sector mainly because of the absence of a land market which prevents financial institutions from granting loans to farmers because there is little or no collateral to support loans.