Flower growers regroup

by Tawanda Musariri

Flowers growers, the majority of whom hail from Manicaland, are rekindling their self funded association to protect their interests in the foreign currency earning industry.

During its heyday, the Export Flower Growers Association of Zimbabwe (EFGAZ) had a strong 250 farmers in its fold before things grounded to a halt in 2005. The association helps farmers to market their perishable products to local and international markets.

The floriculture industry is a cost intensive industry requiring well organized and time conscious logistics lest huge losses are made in the business cycle. The marketing period is critical in floriculture, making air couriers an important stakeholder in the business.

Mr Gordon Makoni leads the flower farmers association.

Speaking to the Harare Post during a three day flowers and horticulture expo organised by the Dutch Embassy in Harare today, a Juliasdale farmer and member of the association Mr Collence Chitepo said his organisation was making good use of the expo to reconnect with its membership in order to strengthen their voice in matters of common interest.

“During our peak, the association had 250 members, the majority of whom left in 2005 to pursue individual marketing efforts. This fragmented position has put us at the mercy of a chain of middlemen, a position that is eroding our earnings. If for example one farmer ships out flowers fetching $5 000, eventually that farmer may end up with half that amount in his hands, the bigger chunk having been eroded along the chain of middlemen between us and the final consumer of our flowers.

“While the middlemen offer an essential service that we cannot avoid, self organisation puts us at an advantage as we would be in a position to control all costs and overheads associated with our business,” said Chitepo.

Floriculture is on the rebound following capital injection by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to support the high export earning industry. The Agriculture Development Bank of Zimbabwe (Agribank) is managing the $10 million fund.

Zimbabwe comes second from Kenya on the continent in exporting flowers, earning as much as $100 million annually from the industry during its peak period. Zimbabwe exports up to 85 percent of its flowers to the Netherlands.

“If we are organised in huge numbers as we used to be, we can afford to hire our own cargo plane that ferries our flowers to target destination markets. But if we are fragmented as we currently are, we will be left at the mercy of the said middlemen. As you can see here, we have this register where farmers are coming back to the fold, registering with the organisation so we can speak with one voice and walk as a team,” said Chitepo.