Zimbabwe: Stakeholders Call for Decentralization of Markets

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Stakeholders in small scale agriculture production are engaging Government calling for the decentralisation of farmers’ markets with a view to enable them to have access to buyers and reduce post-harvest losses during the lockdown period.

This will result in a Statutory Instrument being introduced that will enhance the ease- of-doing business for farmers to access their markets.

According to Knowledge Transfer Africa (eMkambo), a local organisation that provides research-based consultancy for agriculture and its value chains, this will also allow the introduction of markets in residential areas as part of efforts to bring produce closer to buyers and limit movement to main markets like Mbare.

Chief executive officer, Charles Dhewa said submissions have already been made to Government for consideration.

“We are still waiting for a Statutory Instrument from Government to facilitate movement of food from farming areas to decentralised markets in residential areas that we are working with councils/municipalities to identify and get spruced up with support from development partners,” said Mr Dhewa responding to questions from Herald Finance & Business.

“The SI should see farmers and transporters moving smoothly through police road blocks that remain a huge barrier currently. Limited public transport is making it impossible for consumers to travel to big markets like Mbare for the purposes of buying food. That’s why we want to get food in vending sites in high density areas,” he said.

Following the outbreak of the global pandemic — Covid-19, Zimbabwe is implementing measures to reduce the spread of the virus. A national lockdown was effected on March 30 2020, resulting in limited movements of people. Although agriculture is classified as one of the essential services exempt from the national lockdown, farmers and traders are still facing challenges accessing markets due to restricted movements across the country.

During the initial days of the lockdown, farmers suffered post harvest losses as fresh produce perished after markets such as Mbare Musika and Sakubva in Mutare were closed. Although they later reopened, farmers are still facing challenges reaching buyers due to restrictions in movements, while middle men also fail to access the markets.

This has resulted in a significant fall in prices of commodities.

For instance, a 30kg box of tomatoes that was priced at between $250 and $300 is now at $100.

“Since buyers like high density vendors are failing to come to the market in high numbers, prices at Mbare and other markets have remained very low. Fruit farmers in Chimanimani and Honde Valley are already counting their losses,” said Mr Dhewa.

Besides horticulture producers incurring losses, poultry producers have not been spared neither as there have been limited takers for eggs and chicken as well as inability to buy feed from manufacturers.

The same goes for those in fisheries and pork production as they cannot sell to closed abattoirs.

Prior Covid-19, smallholder farmers have been battling post harvest losses due to poor storage facilities, uncompetitive pricing as well as lack of proper marketing research and skills.

More losses may be incurred during the lockdown period if authorities fail to come up with a quick solution. Fruits like avocados, banana and citrus fruits are now in season and ripening much faster which may be problematic in the absence of ready markets.

Meanwhile, Mutare has started pioneering the market decentralisation model to smaller markets in Chikanga and Sakubva high density areas, among others.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, many economies have been affected with businesses scaling down operations with an eventual lockdown implemented across countries.

Smallholder farmers have, however, been argued to be at more risk due to the nature of their businesses — small and informal, despite their immense contribution to food security at both household and national level.

Indications from the World Bank are that the entire Sub Saharan Africa could face a food crisis as a result of the pandemic.

Read the original article on The Herald.

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