WHEN Douglas Msipa settled at Cheshire Farm, 10km outside Gweru in 2010, it never crossed his mind that the journey he was about to embark on would lead him to a crock of gold that would completely change his perception of commercial farming.
His farm sits on 35ha of arable land, which he immediately committed to producing an assortment of crops both for the market and domestic consumption upon settling there.
It was, however, not until six years ago that Msipa discovered that one of the crops he was producing – garlic – had the potential to generate a lot of revenue for him yet he would not require much in terms of funding and labour deployment, let alone, the hectarage.
He then committed eight hectares to the crop from which he has been reaping yields averaging 50 tonnes per season with some of the garlic being kept for seed and part of it for consumption.
Msipa was to immediately realise that there was high demand for the crop both locally and outside the country so he initiated the formation of small groups of farmers so that they could produce bigger quantities and start exports.
“I realised that we needed to try export markets starting with a minimum of 20 tonnes per month and do so consistently at least for six months, which would guarantee us markets. We have since been exporting to Botswana and Zambia but the quantities are still small,” explained the soft-spoken Msipa recently when ZimFarmers Digest visited his farm.
It was not long before Msipa and his colleagues decided to form the Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric Growers Association of Zimbabwe for which he is the production advisor. The association was formed in 2016 and has been helping farmers in various ways to promote production.
“We hold farmer-training sessions every year that always culminate in field displays in the month of July. The best legacy we will leave as an association is the need to retain perennial seed that is not hybridised and can produce tasty and disease tolerant products,” said Msipa.
Msipa believes the country has the capacity to rule the world garlic market, thanks to the crop’s high quality since it is naturally produced, which has seen it courting the attention of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange that is reportedly warming up towards it and consequently fixing a price of US$4, 80 per kilogramme. The association will soon be sending the first samples to South Africa to see how it will perform on the market.
The farmers feel hard done by local supermarkets that distort prices by selling a kilogramme for something in the region of US$8 yet they would have bought it for a song at $5 (local currency) from the producers.
After all is said and done, the fact still remains that locally produced garlic commands a lot of respect out there and the association has since advised producers to retain their harvest for local consumption and seed multiplication at moment, as efforts to establish organised export markets gather momentum.
The country is currently producing quantities in the region of 1 400 tonnes per season making it crucial to start programmes that may see all provinces producing the crop on at least 50ha of land to add to what individual producers will be bringing to the table.
“Let’s make garlic available everywhere across the country, let’s do mass production and ensure prices drop to affordable levels for all citizens who want it but are failing to access it because of the high prices in supermarkets.
“We must also set up 10 centres in each province to train and assist farmers in garlic farming so that we make a lot of cash when we invade export markets,” said Msipa.