NEWS that 50 pineapple farmers in Chimanimani East constituency will benefit from a partnership between Zimtrade and a Netherlands based company in a pilot project to produce organic pineapples for export is sweet music to all progressive Zimbabweans’ ears.
In fact, it could not have come at a more opportune moment than now when the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ is still ringing fresh in most people’s minds.
This simply means that the farmers have secured a partner to certify them eligible to export their products to lucrative international markets while taking them through a capacity building programme to equip them with better production skills.
Such a development resonates well the Second Republic’s thrust of opening up all sectors of the economy for business to both local and international investors.
Of course, Zimtrade deserves a huge pat on the back for linking the farmers with the Dutch company and subsequently Dutch markets, which will surely become a conduit of foreign currency into the country.
It is also refreshing to note that the Dutch government is funding the certification process that will allow our farmers to explore markets in Netherlands while also facilitating their training to produce quality produce for niche export markets.
The desire to lead healthy lives through consuming food produced under natural conditions has in recent years honed most international markets’ appetites for organically produced commodities.
The farmers are expected to produce pineapples organically, which should not be a very difficult feat as the country has always maintained an unwavering stance on discouraging production of genetically modified products.
The farmers need to take advantage of the perfect climatic conditions of the province to produce abundantly for the yawning markets on the international arena.
ZimTrade has already secured a buyer in Netherlands through the Dutch government.
One thing worth noting is that the farmers have already been producing quality pineapples so they just need to remain organic.
The other positive thing is that the variety of pineapples grown in Chimanimani is one of the most sought after globally so to get more value from exporting them, the pineapples just have to be exported as organic.
Zimtrade has also given indications that the programme can be cascaded to other areas in the country if the pilot project in Chimanimani goes to plan.
This means that other farmers outside the initial 50 should push to be part of the programme’s future expansion plans. This is a project that can transform their lives drastically and also enable them to contribute to the national Gross Domestic Product.
Exports are a vital component in generating foreign earnings critical in improving the balance of trade.
The fact that our Government had already forged a partnership with a local private company, Associated Foods Zimbabwe (AFZ) in which they are engaging farmers in Manicaland for a pineapple out-grower scheme well before the latest scheme came speaks volumes of the economic worth of the crop and the value Government attaches to its production.
This literally means that Government has already created the enabling environment that all enterprising individuals, businesses or investors always seek so this should be a push factor for more farmers to jump onto the bandwagon.
Such a project should be allowed to expand to all corners of the country where there are ideal climatic conditions for the production of quality organic pineapples.
Surplus pineapples can still be absorbed locally. There is AFZ’s Vumba canning factory to buy the produce. Currently, AFZ is getting some of its required pineapples from Mozambique, which means that foreign currency is leaving the country each time the company needs raw materials yet that money could be used locally if the product was also produced adequately locally.
The fact that local factories need pineapples as raw materials also means that there are job creation opportunities so the farmers can also help reduce the country’s unemployment statistics.
Pineapple juices and flesh are used in the making of cuisines globally while the fruit is also used as dessert and for the making of delicacies such as pizza, which means there is always demand for the fruit even domestically.
Nothing should stop Manicaland farmers and ultimately Zimbabwe from joining the class of Costa Rica, Brazil and the Philippines as one of the world’s greatest producers of the fruit.
The onus is on the farmers to make the best of the opportunity while the sun still shines.