Vegetable markets are spurring a new revolution in Zimbabwe’s economy with the Mbare market alone showing a potential to record US$36 million dollars annually.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
The development is an oasis of good news in a depressed economy. However, many questions arise as to who is raking in the revenue as the majority of the farmers remain poor despite high revenues being generated at the market.
An agricultural research group, Knowledge Transfer Africa (eMkambo), report for the month of May 2014 shows that Mbare market recorded slightly above US$3 million revenue.
“An estimated revenue of US$3 015 168,25 exchanged hands between farmers and agric-produce consumers at Mbare Agriculture market. This is an increase of 46,1 % from May 2013,” eMkambo said.
“The above income was generated from 49 produce types sold at the market from various farming areas and districts around Zimbabwe.”
The group further suggests that on the basis of the above market intelligence, aid agencies should start relooking the way they classify “poor people” or “vulnerable households”.
“Organisations which use labels like “poor people” and “vulnerable households” to describe rural communities should start crafting development models that take into account the efforts of commercially–minded local champions who always strive to put their districts on the market map,” eMkambo said.
To that end, eMkambo argues that while crop yield assessments by the ministry of Agriculture remain one of the indicators of production by resettled farmers it was also important to also use the market.
“Mbare Agriculture Market (Harare), Malaleni (Bulawayo), Kudzanayi (Gweru), Sakubva (Mutare), Njanji (Masvingo) and other markets proved to be a yardstick through which the country’s agriculture potential can be measured,” it argued.
The research also showed that Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Harare and Mashonaland West provinces enjoyed the lion’s share of the market revenues.
Mashonaland East received US$1 897 888,90, Manicaland US$496 689,31, Mashonaland Central US$237 371,90, Harare
US$150 741,54 and Mashonaland West US$144 838,31.
The remaining provinces Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland South all recorded less than US$70 000 each in the month of May.
The statistics shows that farmers from Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central combined received nearly 85% of the revenue.
In between these impressive figures some two issues stand out; the continued limited returns to the actual farmers and that many of the farmers remain by and large male.
Many farmers who sell their produce at the market more often than not complain that middle men hoard their crops for resell.
The middlemen, farmers argue, pay very little compared to what they charge when reselling to individual consumers at the market.
“There seems to be organised cartels of wholesale buyers who buy our produce at low prices and put high mark-ups when they resell at the market where farmers are not allowed sell to individual buyers,” a farmer, Charles Matare said.
The manipulation of farmers is more pronounced to farmers who sell perishables such as tomatoes, green vegetables and fruits. The same unit is sold at a fixed wholesale price that is 100% less than the price to resellers.
eMkambo urges the government to work on developing markets for farmers.
“Policy makers should devote resources to local market development where the country’s resilience is well expressed,” it said.
Women have largely remained outside this new agriculture revolution. Very few women got farms allocated in their names during the fasttrack land resettlement programme. This is reflected in the numbers of farmers coming to sell their produce at Mbare Market.
eMkambo in their report say: “Of the 6 260 farmers who came in May to trade at Mbare only 1 694 (24%) were women.”
This fact further reinforces the fact that women have remained outside the mainstream economic activities despite the majority of them doing the actual farming in resettlement areas.