ZIMBABWE’s economic recovery plan is dependent on active participation of its citizens.
To achieve this participation, President Mnangagwa’s Second Republic — through the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) — reveals that devolution and decentralisation “will provide organisational structures that allow citizens to participate in development planning, consistent with the tenets enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
The cascading of responsibilities from national to provincial and district level will result in improved coordination of economic activities.
As provincial leaderships set out to advance the Government’s agenda, it is important to first identify areas where provinces and districts enjoy comparative and competitive advantages.
This article focuses on the key export potential in Masvingo that could realise economic gains through focusing on natural resources and infrastructure endowments.
Economic activity and trade sector opportunities
Masvingo province has a lot of drivers for growth and opportunities for trade that-if exploited-could turn the province into an export-oriented industrial hub with potential to earn foreign currency.
The province is well known for sugarcane and livestock production which are the major sectors supporting economic growth.
The major export sector that the province has comparative advantage in is sugar.
About US$90 million worth of sugar is exported annually from Zimbabwe mainly coming from Masvingo region.
The main destination markets for sugar produced in Masvingo include Kenya, Botswana, United States of America, Spain, and South Africa.
There are vast opportunities to diversify these markets if producers are able to meet demand.
Currently, there are two sugar mills in Zimbabwe, the Hippo Valley Estates Ltd and Triangle Sugar Estates Ltd.
There are further opportunities to be harnessed from sugar cane production through development of small-scale farmers as well as outgrower schemes.
Further to this, increasing milling capacity will make it easy to increase production of sugar for export markets.
Further to sugar cane production, Masvingo province is producing a variety of crops, including maize, sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, groundnuts, sunflower, sugar beans, cowpeas, and Bambara nuts, for local and export markets.
There is potential for farmers in Masvingo province to produce horticultural products all year round, riding on high temperatures and existing water bodies.
Masvingo province has potential to produce export quality citrus in the Lowveld.
Production of citrus in the province has been on the increase in the last couple of years and farmers in Gutu, Bikita, Chiredzi and Mwenezi have embraced this.
Coupled by estates in the province producing the crop, as well as the greater potential paused by Tugwi-Mukosi, Masvingo province is primed to be the second biggest citrus producing province after Matabeleland South.
By making use of the huge water bodies, especially Tugwi-Mukosi, the province can irrigate plantations in Mwenezi, Chiredzi and Triangle, effectively boosting productivity in this region.
The hot weather conditions in most of the province are an aid to production of high-quality capsicums (peppers).
Areas around Zaka, Chivi and Chiredzi can help increase the production of capsicums.
In Chiredzi, resuming production of chilies that were once grown in areas bordering the game park can also help deter wildlife and human conflict.
These chillies used to fetch a premium and there is need to resuscitate this project as it has a dual effect on the agro-economy of the province.
Masvingo province produces garlic and ginger that are key to maintaining healthy lifestyles.
Farmers in and around Gutu have been producing the crops and have a shot at regional export markets if they consider consolidating.
The province currently has established mango plantations, which can help increase the export revenue of the province.
Sought after varieties such as the Atkinson and Kent are grown in Chiredzi and Mwenezi.
In addition, Masvingo province has the largest livestock population in Zimbabwe and can play a crucial role to anchor the country’s meat exports.
The province can help ignite the meat value chain and meat exports can be exported to Europe where Zimbabwe’s meat products have a good reputation.
The Lucerne project in Chiredzi will help draw synergies with the large herd of cattle that the province has.
This large cattle herd, along with the lucrative exotic skins from crocodiles, make Masvingo a focal point for hides and skins.
Furthermore, the province has forestry resources that can be used to produce hard woods for export.
These hardwood products such as red mahogany, teak and mopane can be value added into producing high value furniture for exports.
Besides its timber, mopane trees can produce mopane worms and oil which can be exported at a premium price.
Masvingo province can produce baobab and baobab products, which are touted as having healthy benefits and are sought after in markets such as Germany.
Areas in Mwenezi, Chivi and Zaka can also produce Amarula (mupfure), whose fruit, bark, juice, skin and leaves of this native plant are used to produce a variety of products, such as jam, wine, dried kernels, oil, nuts, herbal powder, and soap.
Most Amarula products are meant for the food industry and the export quality could be competitive if producers are capacitated.
To boost trade in the province, there is need for more companies to register and make use of trade agreements signed by the country.
Armed with current and reliable information, businesses in Masvingo province are encouraged to trade under trade agreements, including SADC and COMESA that will improve their competitiveness.
Investment in attaining standards like Global Gap, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, Organic Certification and SMETA will also increase compliance levels of farmers, which in turn will make it easy for products from the region to penetrate the export markets.
The recently established Eastern Region Office by ZimTrade will assist companies to access factory floor interventions and expertise from leading global experts so that they produce competitive products at a low cost.
The office will also help companies register for trade agreements as well as attain international standards certification.
The province has the country’s largest inland freshwater bodies, Lake Mutirikwi and Tugwi-Mukosi while Runde-Tende is also in the pipeline.
According to a research, agriculture in Masvingo can thrive with irrigation development, which is possible given that the province has the largest number of medium-to-large dams.
The Government developed irrigation schemes such as the Manjinji Irrigation Scheme in Malipati, the Mushandike Irrigation Scheme in Charumbira, Citrus Estate in Chiredzi, and the Panganayi Irrigation Scheme to help boost production in the province.
These large water bodies possess great potential for the province to leverage on export products.
Coupled with the high temperatures in the lowveld and the large water bodies, this will make it ideal for production of various field crops, horticultural crops, and fruits.
Masvingo province can bank on its logistical advantages and in the process, transform the Zimbabwean economy through facilitating improved trade, attracting investment, and reviving industry.
The province has accessible and strategic road and rail networks, which include the Harare-Beitbridge Highway, Masvingo-Bulawayo Highway, and Masvingo-Mutare Highway, that connect to Forbes border post bordering Mozambique.
Such a network facilitates improved trade with markets such as Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana.
Masvingo province is the gateway to South Africa as the Beitbridge road passes through the various administrative blocks in the province.
The Chiredzi-Chipinge road, which was recently rehabilitated, is an alternative route that links the province to the Mozambican Beira Port. In addition, the Beitbridge-Bulawayo railway passes through the Masvingo Province and can be used for movement of commodities in the province.
The province has two airstrips: Buffalo Range Airport in Chiredzi town and Masvingo airport in Masvingo town.
Buffalo Range Airport has seen new improvements and renovations to help increase tourism in the province.
With improved production of crops earmarked for export markets, the airport could be used to link the province with international markets such as The Netherlands and United Kingdom.
To fully realise the logistical strengths of the region, there is a need for an upgrade of the rail infrastructure.
There are also plans to improve the Sango/Chikwalakwala border posts in Chiredzi so that they have capacity to handle huge traffic, which could reduce transport costs for businesses in Chiredzi and other operations near the border posts.
Allan Majuru is the chief executive officer of ZimTrade