THE Covid-19 induced travel restrictions and the need for social distancing has created a new norm in which most business and social engagements are now being held virtually. ZimTrade, the country’s trade development and promotion agency has been hosting several online export meetings with the business community. Recently ZimTrade held a virtual horticulture export awareness seminar with stakeholders in the Southern Region, which covers Bulawayo, the Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland North and South.

The meeting was meant to share knowledge on GlobalGAP certification process and the costs involved, understanding the mandatory requirements for exporting horticulture produce and to learn from other farmers already exporting horticulture produce.

GlobalGAP is a trademark and a set of standards for Good Agricultural Practices (G.A.P). It is a global organization with a crucial objective, that is safe, sustainable agriculture worldwide, which sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. Producers, suppliers, and buyers are encouraged to harmonize their certification standards to match GlobalGAP purpose. During the seminar, key elements were addressed that would have formed a bigger part of the frequently asked questions on the platform. These elements included GlobalGAP checklist, cost of certification, certification time frame, audit checklist, how to find a consultant and advantages of the certification.

Bulawayo-based Clarence Mwale, an expert and consultant in GlobalGAP certification, educated participants on those specific issues. The seminar also had an opportunity to host Maina Karuiru, an expert in AgriBusiness management from Kenya who is also a farmer and has been exporting successfully for 15 years. Karuiru shared Kenya’s experiences in agriculture, which is the backbone of the country’s economy and the source of livelihood for the majority of the rural population. In Kenya, the agriculture sector contributes about 26 percent of the country’s GDP and employs about 75 percent of the population. The horticulture sub sector employs approximately 4.5 million people countrywide directly in production, processing, and marketing, while another 3.5 million people benefit indirectly through trade and other activities.

Horticulture is currently the fastest growing agricultural subsector in Kenya and ranked third after tourism and tea, in foreign exchange earnings. One key observation was some of Kenya’s challenges highlighted seem to be in line with some of the challenges encountered by their Zimbabwean counterparts. The small-scale farmers in Kenya supply 75 percent of the total market and provide up to 70 percent of the total agricultural production in the country. Primary challenges include lack of quality seeds or planting materials, lack of or little use of production technology, poor pre- and post-harvest handling technology, aggravated by inadequate cold storage facilities, inadequate access to financing to increase production, challenges with crop rotation due to small size of land and the use irrigation systems is very low.

Their exports are therefore affected by high labour and input costs, high compliance costs to technical or market access standards, overuse of land in growing areas leading to reduced yields, disease and pest pressure, high freight costs, multiple taxations from the government and the youth lacking interest in agribusiness activities. However, representatives from reputable farms, Talana farm from Chegutu and Lingfield farm from Gweru participated and gave comprehensive testimonies of their success story from supplying the local market to certification and becoming top exporters. Talana farm even expressed that there is a high untapped potential in exports that sometimes they even fail to meet demand thereby encouraging many farmers to venture into exports.

-Originally published in the ZimTrade September newsletter