Bid to boost agricultural viability

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THE Zimbabwe Farmers Union has formed the ZFU Agricbusiness Chamber in a bid to transform agricultural operations and increase viability that has declined due to a plethora of challenges mostly brought about by the illegal sanctions imposed by Britain and the United States.
In a statement the ZFU said the chamber seeks to support Government efforts to revamp the agricultural sector expected to be the bedrock of economic recovery.
“While it is the primary role of Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development to coordinate the agricultural sector, efforts still need to be made at all levels by all stakeholders in the sector to make the task easier. An integrated approach to agricultural development, which appreciates value chains and the depth with which farmers should effectively engage with the rest of agribusiness, should, of necessity, be given absolute priority.
“ZFU among other players will take a more proactive stance in its endeavour to respond to felt-needs of the farming community. An approach that realises that ‘it is no longer business as usual’ motivates the union to see things differently, accurately analyse the current operating environment and exploit existing opportunities. The last two decades have seen Zimbabwe moving from its ‘normal’ way of doing business, taking new twists that now require new approaches,” said the union.
Experts opine that lack of clear strategies is hampering the growth of the sector.
“We will address the challenges being faced in the agriculture industry by examining, in detail, the causes of the challenges, exploring possible options, weighing the options, prioritising them, and lobbying and advocating their implementation. In order to capture all the details and come up with a comprehensive understanding of the situation, it is therefore critical to formally engage all the key players in the sector through the ZFU Agribusiness Chamber.”
“The chamber will negotiate, lobby and advocate a favourable agribusiness environment where members can perform competitively and profitably. The AC will provide a platform where the higher levels of the union structure will interface with corporates represented in the AC. It will focus on, but not limiting itself to the following key strategic areas that have a direct influence on the agribusiness: competitiveness, legislation, transformation, economics and trade.”
According to the union, the operating environment has significantly changed in the last decade. “Agricultural competitiveness is heavily compromised at this stage and this calls for more coordinated efforts in order to forge win-win scenarios in the business arena. The national economic blueprint (ZimASSET) makes special mention of the need to revitalise the agricultural industry through improved production and productivity, value addition and improved marketing. The need to lobby and advocate a policy environment that is conducive for growth in agriculture and its related businesses is more critical now, more than ever,” said the union.
The chamber apart from increasing the union’s lobbying voice will also package and disseminate agriculture information among other services.
Marketing information that can revitalise the agricultural sector has been hard to come by leading to “middlemen” or “briefcase business people” taking advantage of smallholder farmers.
Lack of knowledge and contacts has also resulted in farmers failing to benefit from their products and earn maximum returns from their produce.
Farmers, especially smallholder and communal producers, have not been able to access international markets where their products can fetch higher returns.
“It is time that we have an institution of this nature so that farmers big and small are adequately represented and assisted to realise profit from their operations.
“For long farmers have not treated their operations as businesses and as a result they have prejudiced themselves,” said economic analyst Hubertz Muzikani.

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