Rural markets top our list

30 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Rural markets top our list

The Sunday Mail

The Government recently launched the Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme as part of efforts to develop rural economies and eradicate poverty in line with the country’s drive to attain upper-middle-income economy status by 2030. The Sunday Mail spoke to the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) board chairperson, Mr Allan Majuru, on the authority’s preparedness to handle increased agricultural produce from rural communities.

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SM: In December last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme which is set to benefit 1,8 million households countrywide. Is AMA adequately prepared for the increase in agricultural produce?

AM: The interest to venture into the agriculture sector has been growing across all provinces and this is demonstrated by the increase in the number of youth seeking to participate in agriculture as well as applying for land.

In addition, the Government has come up with various initiatives which include the recently launched Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme.

This presents an opportunity for AMA to ensure that both established and emerging farmers have access to necessary support that will unlock markets and investments.

For example, in light of Government’s agenda of improving the livelihoods of rural communities, AMA will this year increase activities aimed at promoting industrialisation through establishing processing centres where produce from rural farmers will be value-added. We have been mandated by His Excellency, President Mnangagwa to establish fresh produce markets for 35 000 village gardens across the country as part of the Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme.

All our programmes will aim to complement efforts by the Government to accelerate growth in the agricultural sector guided by the Agriculture and Foods Systems Transformation Strategy and National Development Strategy 1.

SM: What are AMA’s main focus areas this year?

AM: Our goal remains the same: to effectively fulfil our mandate as outlined in the AMA Act (CAP 18:24). We are not wavering in our quest to ensure local farmers have ready markets for their produce.

In Zimbabwe, over 100 agricultural commodities are produced by smallholder farmers. As farmers focus on production, we want to concentrate on ensuring their product has a ready destination.

For this to happen, we will work with relevant stakeholders to establish a modern market infrastructure that allows for sharing of market information and interaction between farmers and buyers. In addition, apart from domestic markets, our efforts will also go towards the development of regional and international markets.

Already, we are exploring partnerships with sister organisations in regional markets and other African countries to ensure that we exploit pockets of opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

SM: President Mnangagwa has mandated you to establish markets for 35 000 village gardens across the country. How far have you gone with the process?

AM: The Presidential Rural Horticulture Scheme is a Government flagship programme aimed at transforming rural economies and rural lives.

It speaks to the nature of the Second Republic’s policies which are leaving no place and no one behind.

AMA as one of the implementation agencies will ensure that the produce from the gardens have a ready market.

Other agencies are AFC (Agricultural Finance Company), Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and ZimTrade.

SM: AMA recently rolled out a transformation strategy to reorient the institution. What changes should we expect at the organisation?

AM: Absolutely. One of our key focus areas this year is reducing our reliance on statutory levies to fund our operations. I am excited to say that the authority will also prioritise growth outside its traditional core through joint ventures and partnerships as it seeks alternative revenue streams to sustain operations. We will also prioritise raising of working capital to support the production and marketing of agricultural products through Agro Bills and other instruments. This is in addition to efforts targeted at promoting contract farming and encouraging private sector investment in agriculture.

SM: How has AMA integrated technology into its operations and how has this impacted the production and marketing of produce?

AM: We introduced in April last year an online permit application system, which made it easier and simpler for our customers to apply and receive electronic permits.

Overall, the system has been a success, thanks to the convenience it brings for anyone who wants to register agricultural operations in Zimbabwe. This dovetails with the Government objective of improving ease of doing business in Zimbabwe.

We also have an e-marketing platform which we are encouraging all agri-business players to take advantage of and buy or sell any agricultural-related products. Over and above, we facilitated the launch of Zimbabwe Mercantile Exchange Private Ltd (ZMX) as the regulatory authority, which has so far played a pivotal role in creating organised markets. The market is now characterised by improved efficiency when it comes to pricing of commodities.

SM: In 2020, AMA announced a plan to modernise subsistence farming. What successes have you recorded in this regard?

AM: Our efforts have been aimed at commercialising smallholder farmers through market linkages.

The aim of linkages is to enhance agricultural productivity.

The Government has been at the forefront of encouraging farmers to treat farming as a business.

It is through this approach that farmers can also get good returns on their farming operation as we target another good harvest this year.

I am happy to say that we continue to register success in promoting market driven production of crops.

We have also realised increased participation from various stakeholders.

Inclusive participation and a multi-stakeholder approach are hallmarks of sustainable agricultural growth.

One of the things that necessitated our transformation was the need to win back the trust of our stakeholders.

We are striving to ensure that our operations are defined by improved levels of transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in performing key functions.

Coupled with robust and effective implementation and enforcement of regulations, capacitation of farmers and resource mobilisation to ensure agriculture development takes place, AMA now recognises the importance of its work in helping stakeholders realise success in their enterprises.

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