Small -Scale Horticulture farmers eyeing export markets are facing challenges in terms of gaining access to viable markets mainly the European Union market on the back of illegallyÂ imposed sanctions by the west, a move that has raised concernÂ from stakeholders about the need to diversify markets.
Economic experts say despite having benefitted from the land reform programme, small scale horticultural growers still have a lot to do in order to broaden their market base and increase production.
The advent of the land reform programme has resulted in indigenous farmers being given an opportunity to venture into mainstream farming of export oriented commodities such as tobacco, cotton as well as horticulture.
While the horticulture industry has been considered as a key revenue earner to the economy, there is concern of about a 40% drop in the volume of export receipts in the past decade at a time when newly resettled farmers entered the sector.
This has therefore raised stakeholder concern as to what has happened to an industry that used to rake in millions of dollars.
However, taking into account the fact that the Europe Union used to account for a huge market base, horticulture farmers are crafting policies to offset the lost niche market.
â€œWe need to broaden our mindsets and cast out net wide when marketing and eventually exporting our products. We do not need to rely on the EU market but other markets around the globe,â€ said one farmer.
As statisticsÂ from the Horticultural Promotion Council (HPC)Â show that the capital intensiveÂ sector needs huge cash injection to sustain operations, the current borrowing costs from the financial sector have also made it difficult for the producers to gain access to strategic markets.
But according to a Horticultural farmer based in Mazoe, Mr Annanias Munyeperei, it is in the interest of the industryâ€™s survival that focus should be directed at gaining a foothold in regional markets.
â€œFocus should be on gaining a huge market share in the region and then Africa as a whole. From there, we can then advance to other markets around the globe,â€ Mr Munyeperi said.
With a turning point in tobacco production recorded this year, there is no reason that horticulture producers could fail to reestablish Zimbabwe as a prime producer and exporter of horticulture products.
What is needed therefore is to increase production while giving farmers due reward and finding markets for the produce.Â
How can small scale producers compete with commercial farmers?
Should government avail inputs to the farmers as apply to other crops such as maize and wheat?Â
And how can the export system be revisited to enable the emerging players in the industry to benefit from the land reform. All these are burning questions require answers.Â