The Sunday Mail
THE recent State of the Nation Address delivered by President Mnangagwa re-emphasised the need for a collective approach to national economic development.
He noted that enhancing productivity across all sectors is critical towards the attainment of national targets.
To achieve maximum productivity and production, there is need to integrate all communities in mainstream national economic activities in line with the devolution agenda spearheaded by the Second Republic.
All districts must leverage on their natural endowments and participate in upstream and downstream value-addition initiatives.
The focus of these activities should be on products with huge export potential.
To help communities identify their quick wins, ZimTrade — the national trade development and promotion organisation — conducted surveys across all provinces to determine products with export potential.
For example, a study of Matabeleland South revealed that the agriculture sector offers more export opportunities.
Products such as oranges, garlic, paprika, spices, pecan nuts, marula oil, mopane worms, goats and hides are low-hanging fruits.
Value-added minerals and processed foods, as well as arts and crafts, are other products that may unlock export opportunities for the seven districts in Matabeleland South.
Beitbridge, the border town and administrative centre of Beitbridge district, is the gateway to South Africa. Currently, agriculture is the main driver of economic activities across the communities in the district, while fruit trees and livestock products offer quick wins.
In terms of fruit trees, Beitbridge district is renowned for citrus farming, and already has exporters of citrus fruits such as Bishopstone, Nottingham and Cawood estates, as well as Beitbridge Juicing Company.
Citrus can unlock markets in Europe and China.
There has been growing demand for citrus fruits over the past few years, as consumers across the world are moving towards foods high in nutrients.
With the coming in of the citrus protocol with China, indications are that demand for Zimbabwe-grown citrus fruits will continue to grow, offering export opportunities for new players.
To increase the total area under the crop in Beitbridge, which will make it easy to meet growing demand, there is need for new players to enter and take part in production.
This entrance by new players will require all stakeholders, particularly farmers, to adopt a commodity approach where established players support the entire value chain with technical, business and agronomic skills.
Apart from citrus, there are also opportunities for livestock production, with beef earmarked for regional markets and goats targeted for Middle East markets such as Dubai.
To penetrate the international goat market, players need to ensure they attain necessary certifications, which include Halal.
There are inquiries for goat meat from Dubai, so growing production and attaining international certifications will guarantee access to lucrative markets.
Beitbridge is also rich in non-timber forestry products such as marula and baobab.
Setting up commercial value-addition plants will grow production of products such as juices, wines and essential oils.
These high-value products may offer better returns than exporting the products raw.
With its proximity to the border, there are opportunities for growing exports of services in Beitbridge urban, particularly the logistics sector.
Mining largely drives the economy of Insiza district, with reports that there are over 100 gold processing plants (stamp and ball mills) scattered around Filabusi, Fort Rixon and Shangani.
The mining sector, as a source of investment funds for the district, has had a positive effect on the construction, agriculture and retail sectors.
However, most of the minerals are leaving the district as raw products, which translates to exporting jobs and potential revenue.
Setting up meaningful value-addition industries — from raw minerals to high-end finished products — has potential to unlock more export opportunities.
The agriculture sector offers export opportunities as well.
There are farmers who have successfully grown pecan nuts for export, with others planning to put macadamia under trial.
Growing the number of farmers and production will make these viable export products.
In addition, cattle ranching has increased.
There is also room to grow a leather processing industry around the animal husbandry sub-sector.
The district is strategically positioned, and when considering challenges with logistics that other districts face, it is easy to develop export businesses along transport corridors.
Some of the low-hanging fruits are in horticultural produce such as bambara nuts, vegetables and sweet potatoes.
These crops are currently grown in the district.
Already, the district is one of the major suppliers of vegetables and tomatoes to Bulawayo urban, but, with support, there is room to expand their markets beyond Zimbabwean borders.
Amarula trees in the district are abundant.
The fruit can be potentially value-added into various exportable products.
From the agro-produce, and with advantages of proximity to transport corridors, food processing plants may provide opportunities for value addition and curb post-harvest losses.
Canned foods, beverages and dried vegetables are some of the products for consideration.
There are also livestock producers focusing on cattle, goats and poultry.
To boost exports of livestock across Matabeleland South, there is need to create inter-district synergies among players, where each district can ride on areas of comparative advantage.
Mangwe and Bulilima districts
The economies of the two districts are mainly driven by crop and livestock production, with most of the commercial farming centred around irrigation schemes.
As these schemes are already organised, it is easy to develop export clusters of horticultural produce such as chillies and bambara nuts.
The two districts also have cattle and goats in fair quality due to abundant acacia.
Several breed improvement projects for goats are being implemented. This should result in improved breeds that can compete in international markets.
Further, the collection of marula and mopane worms is a source of livelihood for households in Mangwe and Bulilima districts.
Considering the high value of marula oil, developing export clusters around wild fruits will help develop export products.
There is need to support producers with appropriate capital and technology at district level for beneficiation.
The proximity of Bulilima and Mangwe to Botswana provides opportunities to resuscitate vegetable exports.
At one time, the two districts accounted for a significant share of the vegetable market in Francistown.
Following the commissioning of the Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme by President Mnangagwa in Mangwe district in December last year, indications are that the districts will grow their production of export produce, thus meeting demand in regional markets.
Matobo and Gwanda districts
The climatic conditions in Matobo and Gwanda districts are pro-livestock production than rain-fed cropping.
In Matabeleland South, there is room to develop viable industries around livestock and meat products.
In Matobo district, there are plantations of pecan nuts, and growing the number of producers, even at small scale, will help meet enough quantities that are often required by buyers in international markets.
There are also irrigation schemes that have been set up in the two districts, and these have potential for export products such as garlic, paprika and ginger.
Just like other districts in the province, Matobo and Gwanda have abundant non-timber forestry, which offers livelihoods to rural communities that harvest and sell mopane worms.
With sustainable harvests and strategic marketing, there is potential for mopane worms to contribute more to livelihoods than what they are currently offering.
Establishing mopane worm processing centres in the two districts will make it easy to access competitive export markets.
Processing can be drying, packaging and other value-addition practices.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s chief executive officer