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Zimbabwe's horticulture farmers seek export market

by Staff Reporter
29 Dec 2017 at 09:41hrs | Views
HORTICULTURE farmers in the southern region have been urged to harmonise their production in order to tape export markets and increase foreign currency earnings for the economy.

The local market is presently flooded in terms of horticultural product supply as evidenced by a recent drop in prices of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, a range of vegetable varieties and others.

"This is a seasonal market saturation. Farmers had produced more in anticipation of high demand and consumption during the festive season.

Unfortunately, the market has no money given the challenges in the financial services sector and the liquidity problem, which are affecting spending," said Mr Donald Khumalo, a farmer and former Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president.

"We are encouraging farmers in the region to synchronise their operations and aim for exports. The individualistic approach will not work and we need numbers and steady volumes that are precisioned if we are to satisfy export market requirements.

"The foreign market needs consistency and if we improve our exports, we will boost the economy and improve livelihoods. Focus should also be on quality so that we entice the export market."

In the past, Matabeleland region exported paprika, peas and bird's eye chillies whilst the Midlands farmers exported cut-flowers to the European Union.

Recent seminars conducted by ZimTrade in Bulawayo and Gweru in October and November 2017 respectively, brought together at least 50 horticulture farmers, funding institutions and agricultural extension services' representatives to deliberate on how best the region can contribute to the horticultural exports for the country.

Mr Peter de Wit, a PUM horticulture expert from The Netherlands who was in the country recently, explained that the horticulture sector is abound with consortium certifications, which assure the market that the produce is safe for human consumption.

Zimbabwe was once a major exporter of horticultural produce to the EU generating export revenue worth $143 million in the years 1999/2000, but this declined to $83 million in 2016 due to various reasons including logistical challenges, lack of access to finance and technical expertise. ZimTrade engaged PUM experts to assist horticultural farmers with technical expertise to improve productivity. Since 2016, producers of onions, bananas and mange tout have been capacitated. Other initiatives carried out for this sector included a learning visit to Fruit Logistica in Germany.

"The EU market offers great opportunities for produce such as mange tout, (one of the top export products of Zimbabwe), as current supply is failing to satisfy demand.

"An increasing demand in organic produce has also offered a niche market for exporters. Producers are encouraged to form producer clusters in order to take advantage of economies of scale when purchasing inputs, negotiating selling prices and costs of logistics," said ZimTrade in its latest newsletter.

This model has been successful in countries such as The Netherlands, Costa Rica and Central America, among others. To successfully penetrate export markets, ZimTrade said farmers need to ensure that their produce meets quality and food safety standards such as Global GAP and British Retail.

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