LANDS and Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri yesterday met stakeholders in the horticultural sector to discuss ways to revamp the sector’s foreign currency earnings, which have been nosediving over the years.
BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA/FIDELITY MHLANGA
This comes as Zimbabwe’s horticultural exports, which peaked in the 1999/2000 season with foreign sales of $143 million, which was 10% of total exports, have fallen as low as $83 million as of end of 2016.
Shiri told stakeholders at a consultation workshop on strategies to revive the sector that horticulture was strategic to avert poverty, hunger and malnutrition in addition to generating foreign currency and creating employment opportunities down the value chain.
He described horticulture as a sleeping giant that could be used to turn around the economy.
“Agriculture is not only necessary to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, but is sufficient to contribute between 16% to 20% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 40% of exports, while providing a solid source of livelihood to 67% of the country’s populace,” Shiri said.
Horticulture exports grew from $3,5 million in 1986 to $32 million in 1991, contributing between 3,5% to 4,5% of the GDP, and were second to tobacco in foreign currency earnings.
The exports nosedived between 2000 and 2008, before bouncing back to $71 million in 2012 and $96 million in 2015.
“Today, as we witness tobacco being the leading contributor to agriculture growth, I am convinced that horticulture is a sleeping giant. The sector is strategic as a direct attack on poverty, hunger and malnutrition in addition to generating foreign currency and creating high employment opportunities down the value chain,” Shiri said.
The Agriculture minister reiterated that the major reasons for the growth during the period included 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.
Shiri said that his ministry was already working on an Agriculture Marketing and Trade Policy, a Horticulture Development Policy and a Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Policy and had its foot on the ease of doing business pedal.
Agricultural Marketing Authority acting, CEO Nancy Zitsanza said there was need for an efficient fresh produce market such as that in Johannesburg.
“Of course, we have fresh produce markets here in Mbare and Renkini in Bulawayo, but it’s essential that we look at the Johannesburg fresh produce market, which is efficient and well-co-ordinated and have the same facilities here,” she said.
Zimbabwe Horticulture Association official, Daniel Madungwe said there was urgent need to protect farmers from unscrupulous buyers bent on exploiting them upon delivery of their produce.