Fresh farm produce to drive exports

20 Nov, 2020 - 00:11 0 Views
Fresh farm produce to drive exports Dr Evelyn Ndlovu

eBusiness Weekly

Business Writer

The lucrative horticulture sector has been facing teething challenges for the past two decades when Government embarked on a land reform programme that ushered in a new breed of farmers.

The new players in the sector who replaced white former farmers, have been failing to penetrate the European and other rich markets leading to the decline of the sector — one of the country’s major foreign currency earners after tobacco and minerals such as gold.

It is against this challenge that Government has implored the horticulture sector to improve the output and quality of their produce while pledging policy support to facilitate wider value chain gains and exports to niche markets.

Zimbabwe used to be among the top exporters of horticulture produce in Africa.

The Government is now working on coming up with policy interventions that will give impetus to a robust horticulture industry as part of a wider game plan to expand the job market and transform the economy.

Speaking during a tour of Lingfield Farm in Gweru on Tuesday, Minister of State in the office of the Vice President, Dr Evelyn Ndlovu, said revitalising the horticulture sector was one of the top Government priorities.

Lingfield Farm mainly produces flowers, fine beans and peas for the export market.

“The main purpose of these visits is to come up with policy interventions that will give impetus to the Government’s horticulture revival plan,” she said.

“The transformation of agriculture and food systems remain top priority.”

Ndlovu said Lingfield Farm was doing well and pledged to engage the Treasury to facilitate allocation of more funds towards the horticulture sector. Despite the adverse effects of climate change, the minister said Zimbabwe still has the best soils, climate and altitude that supports high grade horticulture production.

Ndlovu said the Government recognises initiatives by stakeholders in the local horticulture sector, which have seen a steady growth in the quality of products. Ndlovu said capacitating small-scale farmers was important in promoting inclusive agri-business, which is critical towards attainment of President Mnangagwa’s vision of making Zimbabwe an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

She said the adoption of the Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) by players in the horticulture industry will lead to acceptance of local products on the international market.

“The Global GAP, a code of practice, will see farmers employing high value production methods that produce competitive products. The main thrust of the code is to ensure food safety of the produce,” said Ndlovu.

Lingfield Farm managing director, Tatenda Karimazondo, said they have been hard hit by the effects of Covid-19, which has resulted in their flower sector (Lingflora) operating at 75 percent capacity. He said the business was facing a number of Covid-19 induced challenges that have made them to source new markets beyond the traditional European markets.

“The closure of borders and international airports has crippled the horticultural logistical value chain. However, this has driven us to secure new markets in the Far East, Russia and Dubai as flowers are always on demand,” said  Karimazondo.

He said the farm was now certified with an international code of practice GAP, which ensures acceptance of products on the international market.

“Most horticulture farmers do not adhere to best practices hence they fail to meet international standards and attract lucrative markets,” said Karimazondo.

“Global GAP provides training across the value chain such as pesticide use, post harvesting handling, market driven production and horticulture marketing skills. We are proud that our standards are globally competitive.”

Lingfield sits on 450 hectares of land and has a mixed farming approach that involves dairy farming and crop production. The farm has partnered Unki Mines in a horticultural training and mentorship programme where the mine has managed to export 15 000 tonnes of peas in the initial phase.

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