By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent
THE horticultural sector witnessed exponential growth and generated significant foreign currency in yesteryears, but the gains were wiped out by economic sanctions, a ruling party affiliate organisation has said.
At one point horticultural products, including vegetables and flowers, were the second largest foreign exchange earner after tobacco exports.
Farmers For Economic Development (Farmers4ED), says Zimbabwe lost most of its niche and lucrative markets for horticultural products, particularly in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK), following the enactment of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) that brought about economic sanctions against Zanu PF elites and associated firms.
In a statement to mark Anti-Sanctions Day on October 25 set aside by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Farmers4ED national chairperson, Tapiwa Chitate lamented the negative impacts of the embargoes on the once lucrative agribusiness.
“Horticulture was the fastest growing sector and generated significant amounts of foreign exchange, and at one point was the second largest foreign exchange earner after tobacco.
“However, Zimbabwe lost most of its niche and lucrative markets for horticultural products, particularly in the Netherlands and the UK,” said Chitate.
“Furthermore, Zimbabwe lost preferential tariff quota exports of beef, cotton and sugar to the European Union (EU). In this absence of abundant economic opportunities due to sanctions, women and young people, among other vulnerable groups, have been mostly affected by these illegal sanctions.
“Farmers4ED join the rest of SADC countries and all Zimbabwe’s allies in denouncing the illegal sanctions imposed on our country by the West.”
“As we harness the farming and agricultural potential for accelerated socio-economic development towards Vision 2030, we recognise the negative impact of sanctions in the whole agricultural value chain.”
He hailed the agricultural sector’s steadfastness that keeps the country’s economic fortunes alive.
“We would like to commend the agricultural sector’s resilience, courage, fortitude and unflinching determination to remain the backbone of the country’s economy through smart, climate intelligent and innovative farming that has alleviated poverty in most of our provinces,” said Chitate.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, providing employment and income to over 60 percent of the population, supplying 60 percent of raw materials required by the manufacturing sector and contributing 40 percent of total export earnings.”
Chitate reiterated that the sanctions brought a myriad of challenges to the agricultural sector, specifically making it extremely difficult to access agricultural lines of credit and attract the much-needed investment.
“This has resulted in a lack of development, rehabilitation and modernisation of equipment and machinery, leading to a reduction in productivity.
“This has negatively affected the livelihood of households and the fight against poverty and hunger. The market access for horticultural products, sugar, beef and cotton, among other crops, has also been negatively affected,” said the affiliate’s chairman.
“It is, therefore, imperative that it remains our firm endeavour as Farmers4ED to complement the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe His Excellency Dr. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and the government’s efforts to ensure food security and economic development through farming for both rural and urban citizens.”