…North West Chamber of Commerce driving the agenda
HORTICULTURE is gaining prominence as Zambia strives to shift its economy away from over-dependency on copper, which for many decades has been the economy’s backbone.
Zambia is taking ambitious steps to promote diversification of the economy in view of some crucial changes of commodity prices in both the local and international markets.
The price of copper in December 2015 dropped to an all-time low of around US$4, 500 per tonne, according to the London Metal Exchange, while power deficits drastically affected mining operations in the mineral-rich country.
This was further exacerbated by the underperformance of the local currency, the Kwacha, which around K14 to one US dollar towards the close of 2015, led to an upward spiral of prices of consumer goods.
This, therefore, makes diversification a necessity, and horticulture is being touted as an integral component of this process which the Government is eagerly promoting.
Horticulture is the branch of agriculture that deals with the art, science, technology, and business of vegetable and garden plant growing.
It includes the cultivation of medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, sprouts, mushrooms, algae, flowers, seaweeds and non-food crops such as grass and ornamental trees and plants.
It also includes aspects such as plant conservation, landscape restoration, landscape and garden design.
Horticulture is one of the fastest growing activities in the Zambian agriculture sector, and is making a significant contribution to non-traditional exports (NTEs).
Europe is the main market for Zambia’s flowers and vegetables, in particular the United Kingdom, and Holland, which account for 80 percent of the total exports. Most of the remainder goes to South Africa.
It is because of the inherent potential of horticulture that Zambia, through active players such as the North-Western Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NWCCI), is participating in high-level regional and global meetings to promote the agro sub-sector.
One such meeting which was held in Kigali, Rwanda, from November 25-27, 2015, was mobilised to share experiences, to stimulate investments and to exploit trade opportunities among participants from across the east and southern African region.
The event brought together participants from eight Agri-Pro Focus Country Networks from Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Ethiopia.
Agri-Pro Focus partnered with the Ministry of Foreign affairs of the Netherlands, Netherlands African Business Council, Private Sector Federation of Rwanda, and SNV to present a platform for participants to understand issues around market access, breeding, finance, food, safety and nutrition.
The event comprised an exhibition for international horticulture businesses, an interactive conference and a business innovation competition.
This was the first ever regional horticulture expo, dubbed Promoting Innovation and Trade In Horticulture.
The conference had high-level representation at the opening event and a wealth of expertise was shared by international panelists.
NWCCI President Josephine Makondo was one of the international keynote speakers at the opening event and presented facts and figures on horticultural trade in eastern and southern Africa.
Tanzania was represented by Kelvin Remen from the Tanzania Horticulture Association, who shared views on the perspective of the sector in the East African country, while Rwanda was represented by Prosper Nkurunziza from the Rwanda Horticulture Organisation.
According to Ms Makondo, the aim of the conference was to create a regional market place where companies could do business, promote farmer entrepreneurship, collect new information and business solutions, and advocate improved trade environment and relations in the region.
The emphasis was on fruits and vegetables.
The panel session discussed the current country context of Zambia, Rwanda, DRC, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Linked to the regional context and to the broader international context was recent news about regional trade in horticultural products.
The objectives of the panel session included identifying key opportunities and challenges of regional trade in the horticulture sector for producers and other horticulture sector actors.
Clarifying the specifics of regional trade and its added value as compared to international trade, or as compared to improving practice in national level trade, was another objective of the panel discussion.
The panelists also sought to identify measures that could be taken to strengthen what already works well and to address obstacles faced by private sector players in the horticultural value chain.
The actors include farmers, traders, processors, bankers and international investors.
The session also explored other measures to tackle through enabling public policies at national level, regional level and international level.
Civil society organisations, international networks such as Agri-Pro Focus, and other multi-stakeholder partnerships were the other key action points that were discussed as being important in improving regional trade for farmers.
It was recommended that improvements should be made in the collection of data related to horticultural products.
It was also recommended that more investment be made into management systems that improve the quality and standards of the horticultural commodities so as to meet the SPS requirements.
The meeting also noted that horticulture was a sector that could earn considerable foreign exchange within the region, as a viable alternative to mineral exports which had made the economies highly susceptible to external shocks such as global demand and price volatilities. – Feature courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS.