Zimbabwe is working on a comprehensive agricultural policy seeking to boost exports and grow the sector to a $10 billion industry in five years – a move also likely to enhance operations of players in the value chain.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Davison Marapira, told Business Weekly yesterday that the policy will be anchored on the development of export oriented sub-sectors such as horticulture, irrigation as well as cutting imports of traditional crops such as grain.
Zimbabwe’s agriculture accounts for about 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and is the major livelihood of about 70 percent of the rural population.
The sector directly support many local firms some of them listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange including Seed Co, Zimplow, Ariston, Simbisa, Hippo Valley, CFI, Padenga, Delta, Starafrica Corporation, BA, TSL among others.
Said Marapira: “Currently, we are just above $3 billion in terms of turnover from agriculture and we are designing a comprehensive policy that should take us to at least $10 billion in five years. It is an import substitution and export oriented policy.
“We want to diversify by increasing production of all crops especially those that can generate foreign currency and substituting imports of traditional staples. Irrigation, in light of climate change will also be a critical component of the new policy.”
The sector already recovering
Zimbabwe’s land reforms programme, which saw the seizure of white – owned farms triggered hyperinflation and the gross domestic product fell by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2008.
Poor agriculture performance was affected by poor rains resulting from the effects of climate change, forcing the country to largely rely on imported farm produce for food security and industrial demands.
Through various subsidies, coupled with good rains and investments from private investors under financing models such as the public, private partnerships and contract farming–the sector—the backbone of the economy—has been showing recovery signs.
Zimbabwe is now self – sufficient in the maize–the staple– after government introduced Command Agriculture, a programme where farmers are assisted with inputs while tobacco farmers have surpassed the 2 000 record output of 236 million kilogrammes.
Cotton production has also been on a rebound over the past two years, rekindling hopes of the revival of the textile sector.
Marapira said the country was targeting to increase production of citrus fruits such as oranges, apples and pears largely dedicated for the export markets. The policy—expected to be in place by year end would also focus on increasing production of high value commodities such as macadamia and boosting flower industry.
“What we are looking at is to expand hectarage under roses to 1 000 ha in the next five years and the markets are unlimited,” Marapira said. The policy would also provide “necessary tools” to attract investments into the agriculture sector, he added.
Backbone of the economy
Agriculture dominates Zimbabwe’s economy and through its various establishments, the industry is one of the biggest employers in the country. It is at the center of the matrix of the economy by virtue of its central position within the value chain.
It is critical to note that agriculture is the backbone of the economy on the basis of its contribution to the gross domestic product, but on the basis of its position within the value chain of major sectors of the economy, particularly the manufacturing.
Backward and forward linkages between agriculture and other economic sectors is what makes the sector the mainstay of the economy. For instance the manufacturing sector requires about 65 percent of its raw material from the sector.
Similarly, service sectors such as tourism and hospitality are supported by commodities from agriculture.