• Government must ensure that Fruit and Vegetable farmers benefit from empowerment programmes.
• Growing fruits on a large scale is very expensive.
• New growers must attempt to evaluate the market demand for the product
Fruit and Vegetable Traders Association of Zambia has called on Government to ensure that Fruit and Vegetable farmers benefit from empowerment programmes.
Speaking in an interview with Money FM News, Association President Bernard Sikunyongana said there is need for government to ensure that the farmers are adequately supported in order for them to increase local fruit production for exports.
Mr. Sikunyongana stated that the country is currently unable to export fruits and Vegetables to foreign countries on a large scale due to the high cost of medicines and vitamins for fruits grown in large quantities.
He said growing fruits on a large scale is very expensive, hence the need to empower the farmers.
“Fruits and vegetables are produced seasonally, but the market requires products throughout the year. For many decades, this problem of matching product availability with consumer demand was solved in two ways which are selling fresh products during harvest and shortly thereafter processing the rest to meet demand during the rest of the year. As technology improved and consumer incomes increased, it became possible to provide fresh produce year-round,” Mr. Sikunyongana stated.
Mr. Sikunyongana said to stay competitive, processors must keep unit costs low, stating that many of the smaller local processors have found it difficult to compete with large corporations and have gone out of business.
“Larger growers, particularly those located in major production areas, can pursue either of the two traditional marketing alternatives: wholesale fresh marketing or processing. Small-scale growers who find these marketing avenues closed to them will need to take a direct-to-consumer approach. This requires thorough research of the market and customer behavior before planning crop production,” he stated.
He further stated that some farmers generate profits by planting first and then looking for a market.
“This can be extremely risky for fruit and vegetable growers. There are far more failures than success stories in this situation. If you are a new grower, or an established one planning to produce a new item, you should first attempt to evaluate the market demand for the product and then decide which direct marketing channels will best meet the needs of your consumers. Your estimates of profitability should include the marketing channel costs as well as production costs,” he advised.
Mr. Sikunyongana added that in order for both the fruit processors and the growers to stay in business, there is need for Government to create an enabling environment for them by providing incentives and reduce the cost some machines.