By Shephard Majengeta
STATE-OF-THE-ART trucks, including ramshackle ones, groaning under the weight of agricultural products, have become a common sight.
Also, on the increase are the pushcarts laden with fruits and vegetables of all types.
The number of people living off the land in Zimbabwe can surpass those in formal employment.
The number of players in the agro-sector has, over the years, increased, especially with youths no longer frowning upon living off the land.
However, there is a need for these farmers to become fully blown agro-preneurs and earn more from their products.
Gone are the days when a particular product was produced by a single farmer.
Garlic, blueberries and many other crops are being produced all over the country on a large scale.
A majority of people in the business of vending agricultural produce are not just vendors anymore but the very producers of the crops they are selling.
The beneficiaries of the land reform are producing all types of crops which are on high demand locally and abroad.
With more than 400 000 black households having benefitted from the life-transforming exercise, production is no longer the preserve of a few.
Before the Land Reform Programme, there were not many sources of produce.
Vendors literally bought produce for sale from specific sources — and in some instances a single source — but now we all have become producers.
For example, potatoes are coming from all corners of the country.
The high literacy rate in the country has ensured that there are very few items that a Zimbabwean farmer on a small or medium scale cannot produce and sell profitably at the first level which is the open wholesale market.
But a majority of these successful agro-preneurs could be earning more if they embarked on value addition of their products.
Value addition has a particular importance in that it offers a strategy for transforming farming enterprises to more profitable ventures.
Thus, a value-addition strategy is critical to the long-term survival of small-scale farmers.
It is common knowledge that small-scale farmers’ products never have a consistent price.
Prices for products depreciate as the day progresses.
By nightfall, large quantities of bananas, strawberries, oranges and cucumbers, among other products, are sold for a song.
Sellers are forced to lower prices because they cannot go back home with produce and are forced into a situation where getting anything is better than losing the product.
For instance, potato farming has become popular. Increasing competition and value addition is the only way to get more from the commodity.
Producers should not be battling on the price front, but seek ways to enhance their products.
Producers must increase profitability by vertically integrating their operations rather than simply expanding horizontally to increase their volume of production.
Value must be added by taking products one or more steps up the vertical ladder of processing and marketing rather than staying at the same level and trying to increase quantity.
There is no reason for producers to lose when they should be making more from their products.
Producers should not be selling ‘baccossi’ (many) bananas simply because the day is coming to an end.
Fruits can be value-added into juices that have ready markets in health spars, hotels and restaurants.
There are also dried fruits that are popular on the international markets and fetch higher prices.
Canning is another option that can see producers realising more from products.
Agro-processing has tremendous potential for increasing income and shelf-life of products; and in the Second Republic are numerous programmes to support producers.
Concentration has not just been placed on reviving big companies, emphasis is being placed on improving the operations of the small-scale farmers and business operators as well.
Producers currently making respectable profits can organise themselves into consortiums that pool resources to establish processing plants.
As markets become more competitive, it is critical that producers take advantage of value-addition as well as establishing market research teams to keep tabs on both fresh and processed local, regional and international markets.
We can achieve the objective of Vision 2030, of an upper-middle income economy in no time.