US$30 million fund for horticulture

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Harare (New Ziana) – THE Government on Thursday launched a US$30 million horticulture export revolving fund, which will finance bankable projects with a bias towards value addition, as it seeks to resuscitate the once vibrant sector.

Launching the fund, which will be accessed via normal banking channels, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said the money was part of the US$958 million Special Drawing Rights allocation received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“It is from these resources that Treasury is targeting strategic sectors such as horticulture expansion and value addition, a sector that has potential to generate foreign currency and create jobs that will have a multiplier effect in growing our economy,” he said.

“The horticulture export revolving fund has the potential to close the funding gap and spearhead increased productivity as well as finance bankable projects with a focus on value addition. Such strategic deployment of resources will ensure that Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030 remains on course as we target an upper middle-income society by 2030 and enable Zimbabwe to restore its position as one of the leading horticulture exporting countries in the region and in Africa.”

Ncube said the introduction of the revolving fund was in line with National Development Strategy 1 plans of increasing the value of agricultural produce through value addition and beneficiation.

This, he said, would transform Zimbabwe’s economic structure from being highly dependent on the export of agricultural raw materials to an economy trading in high value processed goods.

Zimbabwe, Ncube said, was aiming to regain its spot as one of the continent’s top horticulture producers and exporters alongside Kenya and Ethiopia.

According to the Horticulture Development Council of Zimbabwe, the country’s horticultural exports increased from only US$6 million in the 1987-88 season to US$103 million by 1997.

The exports grew by an annual average of 25 percent for the period 1998 to 2004, peaking at above US$250 million by the early 2000s.

“Until the late 1990s, the sector contributed 3.5 to 4.5 percent of the national GDP and was a major foreign currency earner for the country, with diverse exports of horticulture products which included tropical fruits, deciduous fruits, vegetables, flowers, avocados and tree nuts and these were exported mainly to the European markets.

“To this end, the setting up of the US$30 million horticulture export revolving fund will go a long way in empowering our farmers through investing in horticultural projects as well as acquiring value addition facilities that would enable dehydrating, freezing, canning, bottling, extracting, juicing and concentrating their produce,” he said.

“Currently, the industry only contributes US$77 million to export revenue. According to the Horticulture Development Council, the sector employs 18 700 people and has potential to double jobs over the next four years; this is the potential we would like to harness in full.

“Furthermore, the sector is projected, under the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan, to contribute export earnings of US$300 million year by year to 2030. This is achievable and today we are making that head start in terms of availing targeted resources to the sector.”

The facility will be accessed through banks including FBC, NMB, CABS and AFC.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, described the roll out of the facility as “a great day for agriculture”.

He said the funding would go a long way in resuscitating the horticulture sector.

Apart from traditional horticulture produce, Masuka said the Government would also promote new ones while also exploring new markets.

“We are in negotiation and at a very advanced stage of exporting citrus to China, the protocol is now being finalised. We are looking at more export markets, re-establishing the old ones and taking back our market share from Ethiopia and Kenya,” he said.
New Ziana

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