Source: Sanctions cripple agric industry: Shiri | The Herald25 OCT, 2019
Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West have crippled the agriculture industry with the sector now experiencing challenges in securing export markets for agricultural produce, particularly horticulture, resulting in a sharp decline in foreign currency earnings.
This has also negatively impacted on Government’s efforts to import agricultural machinery and irrigation equipment to boost production and ensure the nation is food secure.
Agriculture was the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy; providing employment and income to over 60 percent of the population, supplying 60 percent of raw materials required by the manufacturing sector and contributing 40 percent of the total export earnings.
However, several key institutions with direct influence to the agricultural sector were placed under sanctions, while other financial services providers were slapped with hefty fines.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade report on sanctions states that the unilateral sanctions brought a myriad of challenges to the agriculture sector and made it extremely difficult to access agriculture lines of credit and attract investment.
This resulted in lack of development, rehabilitation, modernisation and deterioration of production and marketing infrastructure, ultimately reducing productivity and access to markets.
“Horticulture was the fastest growing sector and generated significant amounts of foreign exchange, and at one point becoming the second largest foreign exchange earner after tobacco. The horticulture export industry grew from US$32 million in 1990/91 to a value of about US$143 million in the 1998/99 season.
“However, due to sanctions the country lost most of its niche and lucrative markets for horticulture products. Previously, farmers used to export horticulture produce to the Netherlands and the UK. However, these markets were closed due to sanctions, resulting in a significant decline in the horticulture industry,” read the statement.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri confirmed that sanctions have negatively impacted on horticultural export markets.
“We cannot export our horticultural products such as flowers to various destinations, mostly Europe. Some of them are grown on resettled areas where Europeans and Americans consider it contested farms and do not allow us to export anything from these farms.
“If we export we get foreign currency then we can import our agricultural inputs including fertilisers and agricultural machinery especially irrigation equipment.
“We are failing to do that because we have limited markets. If you cannot sell what you produce and it goes to waste and you cannot generate income for your operations hence you cannot buy what you want,” he said.
According to the Ministry Foreign Affairs and International Trade, by 2005, horticulture exports had gone down to about US$72 million, with the value further tumbling to US$40 million by 2009. The horticultural industry’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell from about 4,5 percent before sanctions to the current 0,8 percent.
The absence of latest machinery has led to decline in agricultural production, negatively affecting the livelihoods of households and derailing Zimbabwe’s quest to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) against poverty and hunger.
“These unjustified and illegal sanctions have violated basic human rights by directly perpetuating hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe and working against the SDGs,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
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