The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Horticultural Development Council (HDC) has come up with a model that is aimed at creating synergies within the horticulture value-chain to enhance the link between farmers and markets and contribute to the overall growth of the sector in the country.
Explaining the model which they called the hub and spokes model, HDC chief executive officer (CEO), Ms Linda Nielsen said it would see prominent producers in the horticulture sector serve as the “hub” while the farmers were the “spokes” just like on a bicycle wheel.
“The Government’s horticulture recovery and growth plan targets to grow the sector into a US$1 billion industry by 2030. A positive policy environment will attract investment and help us achieve this target. As HDC, this year we will continue to play our role in meeting that goal. We are promoting the hub and spoke model and a key part of this model is the inclusion of small-scale farmers, who benefit from skills, extension support and access to markets. This is a major focus area for the HDC as it promotes production through inclusive growth,” she said.
She said Zimbabwe earns US$120 million annually from exporting horticultural products, while the sector was a significant contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. Ms Nielsen said to reach the target of US$1 billion by 2030, the industry needs an investment of at least US$1,2 billion.
“This would create 150 000 more jobs. Achieving this goal will require a conducive policy environment, which includes reviewing compulsory liquidation for exporters, ensuring investment security for long-term planning, maintaining policy consistency to build confidence and providing affordable and reliable basic utilities,” she added.
In terms of blueberry production in the country, she said Zimbabwe’s blueberry sector was one of the fastest-growing globally in 2023 and the country was one of the top 15 blueberry-producing countries. Ms Nielsen said the sector grew from 500 hectares planted in 2016 to 570 hectares in 2023, while further growth was anticipated to 650 hectares in 2024.
“However, there is potential for more growth. Peru had just 70 hectares of blueberries in 2012, but now has 16 000 hectares, exporting 287 000 tonnes worth US$1,4 billion. Zimbabwe can learn from Peru’s deliberate policies to support farmers.”
In 2023, she said as HDC they had a full and active calendar of activities and they worked to open new markets for Zimbabwean produce and find the most cost-effective routes to benefit growers. Ms Nielsen said their participation in exhibitions put Zimbabwe on the map, and they continue to actively seek out more markets.
“The highlight of the year was the HDC Investment Forum held in November last year which brought together growers, Government, development partners, investors, banks and other stakeholders. The Forum discussed the vast investment opportunities in the sector and made practical recommendations on the policies needed to turn that potential into real growth for our country. We are grateful for the support that we secured from development partners and banks in 2023,” she added.
The HDC has called on farmers to set up cooling facilities as they venture into export markets. Ms Nielsen said in Africa, over 30 percent of the produce was lost after harvest due to a lack of cooling facilities.
“Farmers need cooling facilities as close as possible to them to minimise losses. Investment in cooling facilities in Zimbabwe is growing and there are great opportunities for investors in that space,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s horticultural sector is fast emerging as a major driving force in the development of the agricultural sector in the country with the growth plan triggering a hectarage growth for horticultural produce around the country as Zimbabwe is pushing to transform the industry into a US$1 billion sector by 2030.