Good times beckon for Zim’s horticulture sector

Government and private funding support is expected to enhance the production and export volume of blueberries, citrus, coffee, and flowers, among other products (File Picture)
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Zimbabwe’s horticulture sector is expected to register strong growth in terms of both production and export volumes going forward, driven by the positive impact of funding from the Government’s Horticultural Export Revolving Fund and loan facilities secured by some local financial institutions from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The financial resources are expected to enhance the production and export of blueberries, citrus, coffee, and flowers, among other products.

This comes after the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development last year allocated US$30 million to the sector under the horticulture export revolving fund from Special Drawing Rights funding received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The US$30 million horticulture revolving fund was launched last September to capacitate local farmers to boost production and tackle challenges related to the challenges of access to appropriately structured long and short-term financing.

Increasing horticultural production through value addition and beneficiation is in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025), whose main objective is to structurally transform Zimbabwe’s economy from one that is highly dependent on the export of raw agricultural commodities to an economy that specialises in trading high value processed goods.

Private funding institutions have also joined in to support operators in the lucrative horticulture industry.

NMB Bank Zimbabwe secured a €12, 5 million line of credit from the European Investment Bank (EIB) in June 2022 to support export-focused sectors of the economy, including horticulture.

The bank late last year indicated that it would continue to look out for more lines of credit to satisfy the huge demand coming from its exporting clientele.

According to the bank, the facility, which has a seven-year tenure, is meant to assist in the sustenance of exporting entities by meeting their trade-enabling working capital needs.

Funded schemes are expected to drive production through value addition and beneficiation of fresh produce, which will boost the country’s volumes of horticultural exports.

According to the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZimStat), Zimbabwe realised US$86, 6 million from horticulture exports in 2022, a 12 percent increase from US$72,9 million in 2021.

According to the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Ministry 2022-2023 crop assessment report, Zimbabwe is projected to registe 69 percent growth in blueberries harvest, while pecan nuts and apples are forecast to see growths of 43 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Zimbabwe’s fresh and dried citrus exports totaled US$33, 8 million in 2022 and have the potential to grow further if adequately funded.

Also, under the Presidential Horticulture Recovery Programme, Zimbabwe is earmarked to generate at least US$143 million from the export of horticultural products by 2024.

The programme targets planting of 18 million fruit trees by 2025, 10 fruit trees per household in 25 000 villages as well as 300 fruit trees for every school in the country.

Nhimbe Fresh Produce chief executive officer, Dr Edwin Moyo said the sector possesses massive potential for growth and could easily be one of the country’s best foreign currency earners.

“Horticulture is one of the most important sectors of the economy, we can be able to earn because of being fully supported by the financial sector and the Government.

“The sector will bring us a lot of foreign currency if we maximise our horticulture products, there is a lot of demand from China, Dubai and Europe. So we have all these funding structures that we are trying to put in place.

We have the farmers, we have the markets,” said Dr Moyo.

“He however urged the government to timeously disburse the funding mostly as soon as it is announced.

This comes at a time when the Horticultural Development Council (HDC) is advancing the production of blueberries, citrus, coffee and flowers.

According to the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency’s (ZIDA) first-quarter report, HDC submitted its plans to secure an additional 4 000 hectares for blueberry production estimated to cost US$140 million to develop.

In terms of coffee production, the HDC plans to establish and manage 1 000 hectares of coffee in the eastern Highlands (Manicaland Province).

It also intends support 1 300 small and medium-scale coffee producers to produce 2,220 tonnes per year with a gross value of over US$11 million annually and creating more than 2, 000 jobs.

“ZIDA is providing facilitation and assistance with land identification and acquisition, creation of special export horticulture economic zones, creation of specialised export horticultural parks for value addition and beneficiation so that the council is able to achieve its set target of a US$1 billion horticulture industry by 2030,” said in the 2023 first-quarter report.

Rose production is expected to increase with a further 800 hectares driven by increased demand from South Africa, Russia and the Far East market estimated to be worth around US$277 million in export in export proceeds. – Herald