Govt launches US$30mln fund to revive horticultural sector

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By Xinhua

HARARE: Zimbabwe has launched a 30 million U.S. dollar export revolving fund to revive its once vibrant horticultural sector.

The funding came from the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation of 961 million dollars made to Zimbabwe by the International Monetary Fund last year.

It will “go a long way in empowering our farmers to start horticulture projects as well as acquire value addition facilities that will enable dehydrating, freezing, canning, bottling, extracting, juicing and concentrating their produce,” Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Thursday.

The revolving fund, he said, will be accessed through normal banking channels with four banks participating.

“It is a sector that has potential to generate foreign currency earnings and create jobs that will have a multiplier effect in growing the economy,” Ncube 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.”

He said the government wants to, through the revolving fund, restore Zimbabwe to its position as one of the leading horticultural exporting countries in the African region.

According to the Horticultural Development Council of Zimbabwe, the country’s horticultural exports rose from only 6 million dollars in the 1987-88 season to 103 million dollars by 1997.

Until the late 1990s, horticulture contributed between 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent of Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product and was a major foreign currency earner for the country, exporting fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, avocados and cut flowers to European markets.

The government expects the sector to contribute 300 million U.S. dollars annually in export earnings by 2030, up from the current 77 million dollars.

“The facility is a revolving fund and as such the government expects that beneficiaries will repay loans made available to them so that other farmers may also benefit,” the minister said.