A ready market for garlic and fresh vegetables has insulated farmers in Gutu Central from the current economic fallout caused by coronavirus.
The horticultural projects were initiated by Gutu Central Member of Parliament Winston Chitando, who is also the Minister of Mines and Mining Development.
Some of the garlic from the constituency has found a ready market in South Africa, where it is being sold at US$3 per kilogramme.
Most farmers are largely shifting from subsistence to commercial agriculture.
One of the farmers, Mr Ishmael Vushe of Makuvi Garden, said most horticultural producers were realising meaningful returns.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting demand, particularly in international markets.
“We are getting meaningful returns from selling garlic and other horticultural crops,” he said.
“Garlic doesn’t require any pesticides and it does very well in winter.”
Mrs Lisa Hove said exporting their horticultural produce has augmented their revenue streams.
Masvingo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Ezra Chadzamira said smallholder farmers should consider expanding land under horticulture.
“Horticultural crops were the country’s third-biggest foreign currency earner after tobacco and beef, but now they have been pushed down the list.
“We are lobbying smallholder farmers to put more land under horticulture production since there is a ready market, especially for garlic,” he said.
“Smallholder farmers should diversify by way of producing different crops or adding value to their produce.
“For instance, those with tomatoes can invest in purchasing machinery for manufacturing tomato puree or even dry the fruit for export.
“We also call on farmers to form associations where they will be able to share information on which crops to grow so as to guard against losses due to a glut of a certain produce on the market. This tends to have a drastic effect on the price.”
Minister Chadzamira emphasised the need for farmers to adhere to good agronomic practices.
“Garlic tends to grow well during winter.
“It is one of the most lucrative products which farmers should grow because it has therapeutic benefits and it is easy to grow.”
Growing leaf vegetables such as covo, chomolia and rape in summer, he added, was not advisable and they were susceptible to pests.
“At the moment vegetables like covo, chomolia and rape are not doing well. These tend to thrive during the winter.
“During summer these vegetables are faced with a number of challenges, especially with regards to pests.
“Pests multiply at a very faster rate during the summer season and farmers struggle to control them, resulting in big losses,” he said.