Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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FARMING: Foreign horticultural products flood market

FARMING: Foreign horticultural products flood market

by Emilia Zindi Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 | 218 views

Imported horticultural produce which has flooded local supermarkets has become a cause for concern among farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has been asked to take action in barring them to pave way for local produce

Imported horticultural produce which has flooded local supermarkets has become a cause for concern among farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has been asked to take action in barring them to pave way for local produce

The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has come under fire for its failure to control the influx of foreign horticultural products flooding the market at the expense of local produce.

Last year the ministry banned the importation of such products saying it was doing so as a way of protecting local farmers who for a long time had been complaining of failing to secure markets for their products despite producing in large quantities. Big supermarkets seemed to have received the directive well as local products replaced foreign ones during that time.

However, this seems to have only been for a short while as less than a year down the line, the same supermarkets have resorted to the old trick where their shelves have become stocked with foreign horticultural products, with South African ones topping the list.

A survey by The Sunday Mail Extra last week revealed a sad scenario in some of the supermarkets around Harare’s CBD where products such as carrots, tomatoes, onions, bananas, cucumbers, beetroot, peaches, plums as well as water melons among other products from foreign countries are in stock, with very few or no local products available.

The local products that could be seen on the shelves were only cabbages, potatoes as well as cornflower which were clearly marked “Proudly Zimbabwean” while the foreign products were clearly marked “South African Produce”.

Some of the products were marked “from South Africa, Nic Van der Merwe En Seus Boerdery BK” with the words inscribed “Buying this product generates jobs”.

Some carrots labelled Rugan Carrots, Plot 193, Greenway Farms, Vlakplaats, South Africa were selling for $1,60 a kilogramme in the supermarket. These were clearly marked “must stay hydro-cooled” which is different from the local carrots which can be sold in any temperatures where a bunch of more than 20 goes for R5.

Although shop owners refused to shed light as to how the foreign produce were taking over local markets, some of the employees blamed the buyers who in most cases were importing using third parties to avoid being identified.

“The stories doing the rounds are that our buyer formed a company with a friend who in turn is importing such products which they sell direct to us through our buyer. When payment is done it is in the name of his friend and as such this cannot be detected,’’ said an employee from one of the supermarkets along First Street who preferred anonymity.

She said some local farmers had on several occasions been visiting the supermarket trying to supply vegetables to the supermarket to no avail.

“The response he always give them is that he already has a supplier. So it is not easy for local farmers to supply us as you can see most of these products are from South Africa where we hear his company imports these at very low prices only to sale at exorbitant prices after repackaging,’’ she said.

Cucumbers were also in abundance on the shelves where a pack of two was selling at $1,12 while the local ones are going for $1 for four.

The move by the supermarkets to go for foreign products has since been viewed as a way of making super profits since they import these at cheap prices while making a killing locally after repackaging.

In South Africa for instance the importers are said to buy 10kgs of carrots for only $1,60 which they then repackage locally into one kilogramme pockets which they then sell at $1,60 a kg.

“So you can see how much profit is being made by these supermarkets through imports. This is day light robbery as consumers are being forced to buy these imports at such high prices which importers are bringing in for a song. If they buy from our farmers, the prices can not be as much as that but at least we will be promoting our farmers as well as creating jobs locally, not outside our borders,’’ said another supermarket employee along Jason Moyo.

Other products labelled Lapriere Posbus 495, Fairest Fruit, Ceres Cascade Farms, Eastern Free State included tomatoes, onions, bananas, plums, peaches, apples as well as beetroot, among other products.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (in charge of Crops) Mr Davies Marapira asked this paper to submit the list of products found in the supermarkets saying all he knew was that the ban was still in force.

“Which products are these? Please send me the list so that we carry out investigations,’’ he said.

Despite sending the list for his attention two weeks ago, he had not responded to this paper’s questions by the time of going to print.

Mr John Mashasha, a farmer, said the rate at which these foreign vegetables and fruits were finding their way into the country was irritating to farmers who were finding it difficult to sell their own produce.

He said the situation had even got worse where these products were now found at the traditional Mbare Musika where local farmers were being pushed out of business as truckloads of foreign products have taken over.

“One can easily notice a push-over of local produce by the imports. The laxity by the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development to monitor and control these is causing serious harm to local efforts by new farmers who desire to help ensure food sufficiency in Zimbabwe,’’ he said.

Mr Mashasha said apart from that, the spirit of government’s blueprint, Zim-Asset was being injured as it was shocking that all supermarkets in Harare, especially, were stocked with imported vegetables and fruits which local farmers were producing in large quantities.

In general local farmers are producing all the various products that are being deliberately rejected by the supermarket owners. This could be a clear sign of sabotaging efforts by local farmers who in the end could stop producing on the grounds of lack of markets.


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