New markets critical for agriculture

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THE success of the new farmer in the country has been told time and again.
That success is hinged on many factors, chief among them being Government’s unwavering support for the sector.
We have, as Zimbabweans, also leveraged on sheer hard work despite being confronted by an economy that is hamstrung by sanctions.
These barriers have been broken because of the quality of our produce which is mainly organic as compared to other countries that have migrated to genetically modified (GMOs) products.
Organic produce has put the Zimbabwean farmer on a competitive and comparative advantage.
Global appetite for organic produce is huge and difficult to satisfy.
But thus far, the success of the Zimbabwean farmer has been mainly recorded on two crops only; tobacco and soya bean.
Yet many more challenges continue to haunt the farmer.
This is despite the effort they put into making their land productive. There is a huge gap between productivity and trade.
Farmers are struggling to bridge that gap because they have not been equipped with knowledge on how to retain old markets while tapping from emerging ones.
The markets are there in abundance, especially on the back of an increase in global populations.
In the same vein, emerging economies across the world offer various opportunities for farmers to sell their produce at competitive market prices.
But the conundrum for farmers is on how to penetrate those markets.
Today the farmer has to contend with a local market that is being flooded with produce from all over the country. Still we import produce like onions, apples and bananas.
In fact, importing agricultural produce is not a problem for Zimbabwe alone.
It cuts across the whole continent.
This begs the question: Why is that so?
Herein lies the answer to that question.
We are failing to invest in modern agricultural technology yet statistics availed at the recently held Southern Africa Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) in Victoria Falls show that we are spending as much as US$50 billion annually on food imports.
Curiously, the bulk of southern African imports are rice, maize and wheat.
Experts say the import bill was around US$7 billion in 2001.
This rise in the import bill shows that something is not being done properly to bridge that widening gap.
We need to create multiple farming seasons while anchoring that on concrete trade agreements with outside markets.
We also need to recognise the importance of the local market by investing in small-scale irrigation pumps, clearing land near the river areas and producing on a large scale.
Through this approach, we can generate more employment along the value chain, with traders, transporters, retailers, supermarket chains and others becoming involved.
Input suppliers would be attracted to the area, offering seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, piping, pump spare parts and more.
We need to adopt market-based solutions when planting our crops.
This will help the farmer draw up strategic marketing plans when putting seed into the soil.
The farmer must be educated on the global economic trends, the crops to grow or not to grow at any given farming season.
This will result in strategic partnerships being formulated with potential market players.
Let us give fair trade to the farmer in order to harness the much needed revenue.

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