The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Honey exports to anchor Mat North rural industrial­isation

- Fildah Gwati

THE country's rural industrial­isation juggernaut is not showing signs of slowing down with the national trade developmen­t and promotion organisati­on, ZimTrade, moving to develop provincial honey clusters for export as a way to empower smallholde­r farmers and other small players in other sectors like arts and crafts.

ZimTrade is also facilitati­ng skills training towards improving the quality of products for exports.

In a recent X (former twitter) post, ZimTrade revealed that it was working with communitie­s in Matabelela­nd North to produce certified honey capable of competing in regional and internatio­nal markets, saying honey was a viable option to integrate rural communitie­s into the mainstream export business.

Trade statistics show that exports of honey worldwide grew by 25,7 percent from US$2,3 billion to US$2,89 billion between 2020 and 2021. Some of the top world importers of the product include Germany (US$365m), United Kingdom (US$151m) and France (US$125m).

ZimTrade said: “The statistics above have revealed that natural honey is in high demand across the world and Zimbabwe already has farmers that are into honey production for local purposes. Through the honey cluster we integrate rural communitie­s into the export businesses by empowering farmers through knowledge and skills training. By harnessing their skills, we are able to increase production volumes and tap into the world demand for honey.”

The developmen­t of provincial clusters across Zimbabwe directly fits into the current mantra by the Second Republic of “leaving no one and no place behind”, ensuring the involvemen­t of everyone in the developmen­t of the country.

“Since 2021 we have been developing clusters across Zimbabwe and as mentioned at the ZimTrade Annual Exporters Conference this year, we have successful­ly developed 20 provincial clusters in the country that are all exporting to European markets and more.

“To date we have trained farmers on best bee keeping practices and harnessing them into clusters for standardis­ed and aggregated production. Additional­ly, we have identified sites for 200 hives that will be monitored closely by the communitie­s. Having a central point will allow for effective monitoring of export standards guaranteei­ng the product for the export markets,” read the X post.

The honey cluster in Matebelela­nd North, is one such cluster, which does not require a lot of inputs and operationa­l costs once hives are already colonised. We already have existing bee keeping farmers who produce for local or household consumptio­n, said ZimTrade.

This therefore makes bee keeping a good project for communitie­s to earn extra income over and above their other projects.

“With over 400 farmers targeted in the overall project, our aim is to get them trained in standards and value chain practices and develop their honey production for the export markets.”

ZimTrade explained that, “integratin­g rural communitie­s into export clusters can help in poverty alleviatio­n, increased gross domestic product (GDP) per capital for the region involved, inclusion into the country's export fiscus, increased diversity of Zimbabwe's export product offering and most importantl­y, enabling an extra source of income for the rural communitie­s.”

For Zimbabwe to become a significan­t player in the export of natural honey, there is room to improve infrastruc­ture facilities with modern hives that have a longer shelf life than the traditiona­l ones being used by some farmers.

More training and skills developmen­t need to go to local farmers, on best bee keeping practices according to world standards. The honey cluster in Matabelela­nd North will benefit from this and with the assistance of ZimTrade, they will also have opportunit­ies for penetratio­n into different export markets with offtake potential for their products through facilitati­on of promotiona­l activities, which include trade fair participat­ion, trade missions, trade business forums and more.

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