BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
ZIMBABWE’S export promotion body, ZimTrade, has embarked on an initiative to increase provincial contributions to the country’s export earnings.
The cluster development initiative, according to the organisation’s latest report, will for a start, focus on bringing together producers with a common interest to contribute towards exports and provide them with the necessary technical intervention support and promotional aid to penetrate identified markets.
Based on research and knowledge of activities in the different provinces, ZimTrade is working with stakeholders in the Midlands region to develop a horticultural cluster, riding on areas of competitive advantage.
The Midlands region has high horticultural activity and with adequate support, farmers can be nurtured into fresh produce exporters.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation describes an agro-based cluster simply as “a concentration of producers, agribusinesses and institutions that are engaged in the same agricultural or agro-industrial subsector, and interconnect and build value networks when addressing common challenges and pursuing common opportunities”.
A recent scoping mission conducted in the farming areas around Gweru and Kwekwe provided insight into the types of crops being produced mainly for the local market.
Only a few of the companies are involved in exporting.
Export products are mainly paprika, flowers, oranges and mange tout peas.
However, the ranges of produce that can be grown from the region include fine beans, peppers, lettuce and sweet potatoes.
“Going forward, the clusters currently under development seek to address some of the challenges affecting export growth from the region,” the body said in its latest report.
“ZimTrade will also engage farmers on certification and plans are underway to provide farmers with training on GlobalGAP certification, with a positive being the show of interest from the farmers with most already in the process of establishing procedures/systems as per GlobalGAP requirements,” it said.
Zimbabwe is an agro-based economy and in decades gone by, the country’s export earnings reached a peak of US$143 million comparing fairly with Kenya, which was exporting US$167 million, but now has exports worth at least US$1 billion.
Growing the sector and in particular farmers’ interest in producing for export is an immediate course of action that if well implemented will undoubtedly contribute towards achievement of the 7:14 exports roadmap (the target for exports has been set at US$7 billion by 2023 and US$14 billion by 2030).
During the 2019 ZimTrade Annual Exporters’ Conference, President Emmerson Mnangagwa directed that all provinces must increase their contribution to national exports.