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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Horticulture hectarage targets revised upwards

Story by Theophilus Chuma

THE government has reassured small-holder market gardening farmers of financial support through the US$30 million Horticultural Export Fund facility, with US$5 million having been disbursed so far.

Within the past two years, the country’s horticulture sub-space has been rejuvenated with hectarage for exports increasing by an additional 7 000 hectares from 113 000 to the current 120 000 hectares.

To support this growth, the government dedicated a US$30 million facility to support the Horticultural Export Revolving Fund, which has subsequently anchored the current growth within the sector.

“We have five banks that are disbursing the funds and lending the facilities to farmers. So far, US$5 million has been administered through the banks, and the programme has been rolling out quite well. Of course, we had some challenges with liquidity but otherwise, it’s going on well and it will go a long way to improve the horticulture sub-space,” said Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr John Basera.

Smallholder farmers are confident the facility will further transform the performance of the sector but pointed to the need for effective administration and processing of applications submitted to on-lenders.

“We thank the government for this kind of facility which indeed is a very powerful package to support our sector. However, I think authorities should critically look into the time the banks are taking to approve the loan applications. Sometimes it takes longer, and this impacts the farmers,” expressed a farmer, Mr Silence Nkonde.

Another farmer, Mr Trust Khiza lauded the government’s work saying, “The facility is good, but the challenge comes with the time it’s taking for the banks to release the funds. I believe if this is addressed it should come with a lot of benefits for the farmers.”

The Horticulture Export Revolving Fund is one of the key funding vehicles established under the Second Republic to support the agricultural sector.

Benefits have been recorded through impressive export earnings which have jumped from close to US$40 million in 2018 to at least US$70 million this year.

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