Although Zimbabwe`s agricultural sector is not spared by the current economic crisis affecting every other sector of the economy, the country`s horticulture products continue to be greatly coveted in the lucrative European market due to its remarkable quality.
Dutch Embassy Harare recently posted on its Twitter page, images of Zimbabwean green peas and fine beans on the shelves in Netherlands shops, highlighting that Zimbabwe`s fresh farm produce continues to be on demand in Europe and that Netherlands is one of Zimbabwe`s farm produce buyer.
“Look what’s cooking here in Holland. Top quality mangetout peas and fine beans, favourites for the Dutch and always in high demand, just some of the fresh produce exported from Zimbabwe. Netherlands is Zimbabwe’s biggest buyer of fresh produce. Exports,” reads the post.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Executive Director, Mr Paul Zacharia confirmed the sentiments by the Dutch Embassy saying he witnessed our products in Netherlands shops a few weeks ago when he visited the European country.
“I was in Netherlands a few weeks ago and I got an interest to visit vegetable sections in their supermarkets just to learn few things about their fresh produce. I was really happy to see our green produce like the green beans and peas on their shelves. Ours were among those from South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and other African countries.
“The Dutch Embassy`s observation that our produce is on high demand in Europe is very correct. I want to urge farmers to concentrate on producing good quality products and explore international markets. There is need for farmers to start by looking for markets then produce targeting those markets,” he said.
At its peak, the horticulture sector was the second largest foreign currency earner in Zimbabwe after tobacco, contributing an average of four percent of gross domestic product.
The country used to export about 85 percent of its flowers to the Netherlands while about 90 percent of the total fresh vegetables landed in Britain, South Africa, Zambia and Namibia. Eighty percent of locally grown fruits were consumed by British and South African markets.
Production and earnings from the sector plunged at the turn of the millennium when the West imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe in protest over the historic land reform programme, which has benefited more than 200,000 families.
Zimbabwe has since started re-engaging the EU in a bid to normalise relations as the new dispensations tries to turn around the country`s economy.
Last week saw the launch of the formal political dialogue between Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) where both parties agreed to work together in socio-economic and political areas.
The dialogue is part of re-engagement with the EU, and it is being spearheaded by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who upon coming into office in November 2017 vowed his commitment to reintegrating Zimbabwe into the community of nations.
Their discussions focused on areas of interest to Zimbabwe and the EU, among others, investment, trade and economic development, climate change and humanitarian assistance, human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law, development cooperation, and regional and international cooperation.
It is through this dialogue and other engagements that Zimbabwe is also expecting a hand in form of funding to resuscitate its agriculture sector.
Years had passed with strained and frosty relations that followed Zimbabwe’s fallout with Britain over the historical land issue. President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement drive with the international community is therefore bearing fruits, following the birth of this Zim-EU formal political dialogue.
Relations between the two parties are set to improve. This dialogue is expected to open a fresh page that will have major geopolitical implications and benefits for Zimbabwe, whose international relations unfavourably affected domestic prospects for growth economically and socially.
Yesterday witnessed the launch of Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme, a four year programme funded by the European Union that seeks to transform Zimbabwe`s livestock sector and develop a diversified and efficient agriculture sector that promotes inclusive green economic growth.
The Ministry of Lands and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen officially launched the programme at Chibhero College of Agriculture which is a response to challenges in the livestock sector through financial support from EU, amounting to 40 million pounds.