Zimbabwean farmers are gearing up to invest US$140 million to develop 4,000 hectares of blueberries, aiming to expand the output of this crop which demonstrated the strongest growth in the local horticulture sector last year.
Represented by the Horticulture Development Council (HDC), the farmers have presented a comprehensive plan to the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) to extend the production of not only blueberries but also citrus, coffee, and flowers.
ZIDA’s quarterly report on investment activity states, “HDC submitted its plans to ZIDA, which provide detailed information about the proposal to secure an additional 4,000 hectares for blueberry production estimated to cost US$140 million for development.”
In addition to blueberries, the HDC has strategic plans for coffee production. It aims to establish 1,000 hectares of coffee in the Eastern Highlands and support 1,300 small and medium-scale coffee producers to achieve an annual production of 2,220 tonnes, valued at over US$11 million.
Furthermore, Zimbabwean farmers are seeking to expand rose production by an additional 800 hectares, capitalizing on increased demand from markets in South Africa, Russia, and the Far East.ZIDA is actively facilitating and assisting the HDC with various aspects, such as land identification and acquisition, establishment of special export horticulture economic zones, and creation of specialized export horticultural parks for value addition and beneficiation. These efforts are aimed at helping the Council achieve its ambitious target of a US$1 billion horticulture industry by the year 2030.
According to a crop assessment report for 2022-2023 released by the Ministry of Agriculture in April, Zimbabwe is expected to experience a 69% increase in blueberry harvests this year, marking the highest growth rate among horticulture crops in the report. Pecan nuts and apples followed with growth rates of 43% and 29% respectively.
Fruit exports were once a significant source of foreign exchange earnings for Zimbabwe. However, the production suffered a downturn after the land reform disrupted farm operations. Now, the country is making efforts to revive the horticulture sector. In 2021, the government announced a US$30 million Horticulture Export Revolving Fund, which was financed in part by a US$960 million allocation from the IMF as COVID-19 relief.