THE horticulture sector is on an upward trajectory thanks to the establishment of the Horticulture Development Council (HDC) in 2019 that has revitalised most of its commodity associations.
This follows the demise of the Horticultural Promotion Council (HPC) at the turn of the millenium.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera recently revealed that production was on a rebound with the year 2020 recording the highest earnings of US$15 260 million up from US$12 201 million the previous year. He attributed the regeneration to the establishment of the Horticulture Development Council (HDC) in 2019 to replace the HPC.
Dr Basera credited the HDC with playing the critical role of integrating smallholder farmers into high-value horticulture markets in a development that has also seen smallholder farmers now constituting the majority of those possessing most of the land committed to both conventional agriculture and horticultural production.
The HDC has since taken over the task of facilitating the adoption of competitive standards by these smallholder producers after most of the traditional horticulture farmers called it time immediately after the land reform.
The establishment of the HDC was premised on the realisation by stakeholders in the horticulture sector that its performance was declining partly because the services that were being provided by HPC were no longer there, so they re-grouped to establish the council with assistance from Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development.
HPC membership was mainly constituted by the large-scale commercial farmers.
Following the fast track land reform programme, funding became a challenge as the institution was sustained by levies, which led to its eventual demise.
One the one hand, the HDC comprises a number of horticulture commodity associations and is member based and comprising a number of horticulture commodity associations affiliated to it. The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement developed the Statutory Instrument (SI), which led to the gazetting of HDC.
It is the HDC that is also tasked with training of smallholders throughout the whole value chain and facilitating access to market information, facilitating linkages between the producers and buyers and most importantly facilitating access to finance by smallholder producers.
Entities such as the Berry Growers Association, Zimbabwe Avocado Growers Association, Citrus Growers Association of Zimbabwe, Export Flower Growers Association, Zimbabwe Export Fresh Produce Growers Association, Zimbabwe Tea Growers Association, Macadamia Growers Association and the Deciduous Fruits Growers Association are affiliates of the HDC.
It is the duty of the associations to help in boosting performance of the sector through liaising with Government and participating in the formulation of national policies, objectives and standards pertaining to the production and marketing of all forms of horticultural produce, assisting the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) and Zimtrade in establishing appropriate export promotional activities and facilitating quality and diversity among other key functions.
Other pivotal functions of the HDC include implementing an industry wide Code of Practice to assure foreign markets that horticulture is grown in accordance with internationally accepted norms concerning ethical, social and environmental concerns while identifying and selecting appropriate targets for marketing Zimbabwe’s horticultural produce and to encourage the production of crops relative to selected target markets.
One of the most crucial roles is its role in establishing linkages that allow small-scale growers to create synergies with established exporters and subsequently benefit from access to export markets, which is what the majority of the current horticulture farmers need given that they belong to the smallholder bracket.