‘Revive ailing horticulture sector’

Desire Ncube
\nZimbabwe has been urged to come up with a tailor-made investment plan to revive the ailing horticulture sector. At its peak in 1999, horticulture generated $143 million in exports and it was the third largest foreign currency earner in the agriculture sector. It contributed four percent to the gross domestic product.

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The main challenge that is suppressing the sector is the unavailability of competitively priced finance facilities for infrastructure development and working capital.

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The current financing facilities available from local financial institutions are expensive and not structured to meet the production cycles of different horticulture crops. For instance, macadamia nuts and fruits take more than four years before the first harvest, currently there are no financing facilities to cover such a production cycle.

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A leading horticulture consultant, Mr Chakanyuka said the stringent lending requirements are prohibitive for A1 and A2 farmers as the majority of these farmers do not have the requisite collateral.

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“Under the current situation, contract farming can unlock value in horticulture production. Contract farming has achieved success in reviving the tobacco sector, the same concept can be adapted in horticulture production and marketing,” he said.

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Contract farming provides finance, extension services and markets to farmers making it a one-stop shop strategy to fully capacitate and integrate farmers into global agricultural value chains.

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Mr Chakanyuka said Zimbabwe needs to come up with strategies to revive the sector so that it can meaningfully tap into the $170 billion global horticulture market.

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“What is critical is to make sure that we come up with a tailor-made investment promotion drive to attract private companies who become out-growers, who then support farmers to produce for the markets,” he said.

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He said apart from funding, farmers also need to be capacitated with skills to produce the required yields that meet quality standards on international markets.

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He said in the 1990s, Zimbabwe used to export 85 percent of its flowers to the Netherlands, 90 percent of fresh vegetables to Britain and Southern Africa and 80 percent of fruits to Britain and Southern Africa.

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Fresh produce crops for regional and international markets include mange tout peas, French beans, baby corn, sweet corn, sugar snap peas, baby marrow, chillies, passion fruit, citrus, bananas, mangoes and avocado, among others. Flowers that are produced in Zimbabwe are mainly for export to Netherlands. These include roses, asters and solidago.

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Last year, Mr Chakanyuka launched an organisation that promotes the development of the sector. This year, he has partnered with SNV, a non-governmental organisation and will host the second edition of the National Horticulture Conference on October 6.

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The conference will run under the theme “Agriculture Transformation through Horticulture Exports to Regional and EU Markets”.
\n“Delegates expected to attend this year’s conference are policy makers, farmers, farmer organisations, agro-inputs suppliers (fertilisers, crop chemicals, seeds), processors or exporters, transporters to international destinations, freight forwarders, irrigation equipment and tractors suppliers, packaging material suppliers, banks, insurance companies, universities, agriculture colleges, international co-operating partners, non-governmental organisations and consultants among others,” said Mr Chakanyuka.

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He said the conference will provide a platform for policy makers and industry stakeholders to network and discuss future strategies to revive the sector.

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“Developing horticulture has significant benefits to the country as it will address food security, provide opportunities for value addition and downstream investment.

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“It can also create employment, horticulture production can employ more than 20 people per hectare with more jobs being created throughout the value chain. It can eradicate poverty and contribute positively to GDP and national trade balance,” he explained.

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Mr Chakanyuka added that market linkages are a pre-requisite to succeed in horticulture business and therefore the conference will enhance awareness of regional and international market opportunities and market access requirements.

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He said Zimbabwe has everything that is required to boost the sector.
\n“Zimbabwe is very suitable for the production of a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers for domestic, regional and international markets because of favourable climatic conditions in the country. It also has abundant skilled and productive labour and existing knowledge and experience on horticulture production and marketing, the sector can leverage on that.”

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“The country is blessed with a well developed riverine system and good soils for horticulture development and is home to more than 10 000 water bodies which can be equipped for horticulture development.

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“Most of the water bodies are grossly under-utilised and can be considered for special economic zones status to be able to attract significant investments in the horticulture value chain,” he said.