Let's support 'buy Zimbabwe' initiative

Let's support 'buy Zimbabwe' initiative
Published: 29 July 2014
Despite the economic challenges, Zimbabwe has remained resilient and continues to move forward.

That is part of the national DNA. The adoption of the multi-currency system that includes the United States dollar as a medium of exchange has helped sustain this momentum.

This resilience has been demonstrated in many sectors including agriculture sector, where until recently some small-scale farmers have been feeling the pinch due to the influx of cheaper imported farm produce mainly from South Africa.

The cheaper products that included tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes and oranges amongst others flooded places such as Mbare Musika creating an impression that local farmers were unable to meet demand.

The low prices on offer also started to crowd out local farmers from fresh farm produces markets.

Swift and decisive action by the Ministry of Agriculture and Mechanisation of withdrawing all import licences and asking importers to reapply saved the situation.

This shook traders and importers at Mbare Msika. Prophets of doom predicted the collapse of agriculture and rise in the price of produce.

There was an incessant chorus that there will be shortages. But the local farmer came back to capture their lost market.

They reduced prices from a dollar a head of cabbage to $1 for two and the market began to warm up to local produce again.

Even more impressive was the new found understanding between local producers and vendors at the local markets.

The link between buying local and saving jobs ceased being merely a slogan but became a reality.

In a survey by Buy Zimbabwe many traders at Mbare Msika would go beyond describing the key differences between Zimbabwean produce and imports but indicated how the policy circles affected the various ebbs at the market.

That understanding has been proof that Zimbabwe has the capacity to quickly manage its ever ballooning import bill, which went up by a further $1,7 billion for the first six months of the year.

The pleasing bit is that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce seems to be now determined to ensure that the growing trend is dealt with.

Buoyed by what it sees, the ministry has put together a committee of prominent members of the private sector to advise on how imports can be reduced.

The team has come with a number of observations taken from experiences in markets such as Mbare and other sectors such as the local peanut butter market where imports have been reduced to less than one percent.

In each of these experiences what has emerged is that Zimbabwe is not inherently incapable of competing against imports.

Rather if the market conditions are clearly defined locals have a better understanding of required tastes of consumers and due to favourable logistical factors, more disposed to quickly responding to issues that arise from time to time.

Taking a cue from the tobacco revolution the team has also noted that a key driver that influences agricultural production is not so much telling farmers what to do and how to do it but rather creating a visible market where divergent producers realise existent opportunities.

In the case of tobacco, the setting up of tobacco floors has made it easier for both current and potential suppliers of the crop to calculate their risk and focus their efforts knowing that at the end of the day a market awaits them.

The same factor is responsible for the growth of maize production in the country.

Farmers understood that as long as they focused on growing maize of acceptable quality a buyer, the Grain Marketing Board, was on hand to take up their produce.

In fact with properly configured markets that are visible to the diversity of locals it becomes much simpler to stipulate that which the market expects in terms of quality.

The resultant competition also enabled farmers to measure compare themselves to other growers and to adjust their grades and price.

That is no rocket science. It is simple economics that Zimbabweans like the rest of the world understand.

In essence once conditions are put in place that support local production, the rest takes care of itself.

The trouble that policy makers often make is to believe that they know it all. They know the right price, they know which farmers can do what and they know how farmers must do it.

As a nation we must graduate to a level where we accept that all human beings are driven by a desire to succeed and that with the right environment Zimbabweans can easily beat any player who dares to come in their turf.

Buying Zimbabwe is not only possible but can be utilised to ensure that Zimbabwe immediately resolves her economic challenges.

In the past three years to date we have accumulated a deficit of $9,6 billion. That figure will this year surpass the national debt of $9,9 billion which has accumulated since we gained independence in 1980.

That really is not good news. Decisive action is now required to ensure that the entrepreneurial spirit inherent in the population is sufficiently leveraged to reverse this situation we find ourselves in.

The team from the private sector believes that with the right policy support Zimbabwe can save $2 billion per year in unnecessary imports. That amount is enough to reverse our challenges. We must do it.

Till we meet again remember to put your money where your mouth is.

The time to buy local and prosper is now.

God Bless.

Email vandudzai@buyzimbabwe.org.zw, 00263773751878.
- Vandudzai Zirebwa Buy Zimbabwe
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