Draught pushes vegetable prices up in Bulawayo

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

THE draught ravaging most parts of Matabeleland has pushed prices of vegetables and fruits up in the region’s biggest market, Bulawayo.

The unfortunate development has seen some traders buy the produce from as far as Harare and neighbouring South Africa for resell.

Matabeleland, a perennially dry region in terms of rainfall patterns, has been hardest hit by the current draught.

The situation has been worsened by the country’s failure to receive adequate rainfall during the 2018/19 agricultural season due to El Nino.

A crate of tomatoes is selling at prices of between $200 and $250 while the price in Harare ranges between $100 and $150.

Vegetables and fresh foods traders who spoke to at Bulawayo’s main vegetable market along forth street said before the draught situation, they used to source for fruits and vegetables from surrounding peri-urban farming areas but now either import from South Africa or buy from other areas.

“We are incurring huge transport costs in bringing vegetables and fruits from South Africa every week,” said Lewis Nkomo, a vegetable dealer who said they were failing to receive adequate supplies from local farmers.

“The few farmers who are supplying are charging us exorbitant prices.”

Nkomo said he brings about 30 tonnes of fresh vegetables from South Africa every week.

He specialises in butternuts, acorn and cornflower, among other vegetables.

The businessman also sells fresh fruit such as apples and peaches.

Another vegetable wholesaler, Trynos Brown said farmers in Bulawayo’s traditional farming areas of Nyamandlovu, Umguza and Esigodini were facing numerous challenges such as water shortages and could not meet demand.

“After every two days, I travel to Mbare Msika in Harare to buy vegetables for resell in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

“I buy the vegetables in bulk and resell to vegetable vendors,” said Brown.

Former Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president, Donald Khumalo said the high cost of borrowing finance, and water shortages was one of the reasons there has been reduced production of vegetables in the region.

“Generally, Matabeleland is a dry area and there is an urgent need to come up with irrigation schemes to boost horticulture in this part of the country.

“There is also need to revamp irrigation equipment and boreholes in farms since most of the equipment now frequently breaks down due to old age,” he said.

Khumalo, who is also former Matabeleland Zambezi Water project (MZWP) advisory board chairman, said the panacea to the region’s perennial water shortages is the Zambezi water project.

“If implemented, the Zambezi water project is supposed to create a greenbelt of citrus and other horticulture plantations right from Hwange up to Bulawayo.

“As a result of the project, the market will be flooded with farming produce including dairy products. The prices of fruits and vegetables will certainly go down,” he said.