The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Farmers hail US$55m horticultu­re deal

- Precious Manomano Herald Reporter

FARMERS have welcomed NMB Bank’s decision to lend up to US$55 million towards horticultu­ral production, saying the move will help to grow the sector.

They are also optimistic that new opportunit­ies will open doors to further expand the horticultu­re sector.

The bank is a big supporter of the horticultu­re industry with most farmers, especially in the blueberry sub-sector having received financial support from the finance institutio­n.

So far the subsector is generating US$70 million, far more than the US$30 million which was produced in the previous years, so the Government is targeting to generate export proceeds of US$143 million by the end of next year.

As a way of improving the sector, the Government also launched a US$30 million Horticultu­re Export Revolving Fund to enhance the horticultu­re sector’s contributi­on to the growth of the country’s export earnings and economic growth.

The funding was basically focusing on supporting horticultu­ral farmers and those involved in exports.

Mrs Maria Mushupe of Goromonzi who is into vegetable and tomato production indicated that financial institutio­ns are critical in partnering farmers so that they increase production.

She added that improved access to markets and the provision of loans and revolving funds would play a critical role in supporting the horticultu­re sector.

“There is need to implement initiative­s to ensure the horticultu­re sector is indeed flourishin­g countrywid­e and farmers should meet and share knowledge and skills on how best they can boost the sector,” he said.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Associatio­n Trust president, Mrs Depinah Nkomo, said it was critical to empower smallholde­r farmers on infrastruc­tural developmen­t and also on market requiremen­ts.

“Smallholde­r farmers, especially women, require irrigation infrastruc­ture so they can produce high value crops throughout the year. Some of the women have the zeal to produce but lack technical expertise and do not have adequate informatio­n on the market requiremen­ts,” she said.

Another farmer, Mrs Charity Musengi of Dema who specialise­s in tomatoes and onion production, has welcomed the developmen­t saying that lack of finance was the major issue affecting horticultu­ral farmers. Lack of access to markets was another major setback for most horticultu­re farmers and improved access to diverse markets was a needed Government initiative.

“There is need to improve access to markets through the establishm­ent of a horticultu­ral markets standards body to ensure that horticultu­re farmers get maximum profits,” said Mrs Musengi.

NMB Bank Zimbabwe and Rabo Partnershi­ps entered into a multi-year partnershi­p aiming to support NMB to become a major lender in the food and agribusine­ss sector and to play a catalytic role in the developmen­t of the agricultur­al ecosystem of the country.

The goal being to facilitate access to financing within both the wholesale markets and among smallholde­r farmers.

NMB aims to establish strategic partnershi­ps within key segments, including horticultu­re, grain and oilseeds, as well as dairy and poultry value chains.

Horticultu­re can grow fast since Zimbabwe is well placed geographic­ally and climatical­ly to produce fresh and pure produce on good soils, using pristine water and a variety of climatic conditions.

Under the Presidenti­al Rural Horticultu­re Transforma­tion Plan, 2,3 million households will benefit from fruit production and village nutrition gardens this year.

Zimbabwe hosts the second horticultu­re investment forum today, to explore ways of growing the sector.

Farmers, investors and policymake­rs will discuss ways of fulfilling Zimbabwe’s vast potential to become a global player.

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