Zanzibar — Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi yesterday directed the agricultural ministry to collaborate with all stakeholders to boost production of horticultural produce in the country for domestic and export markets.
Dr Mwinyi also announced major reforms in his initiative to spur the horticulture industry to meet domestic and export markets.
“We have to work hard to meet the domestic demand and explore the immense opportunities in the export markets,” Dr Mwinyi said at the official launch of the ultra-modern horticultural knowledge hub, the first of its kind in Zanzibar.
It has been constructed by The Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) through the European Union and Finland’s Food and Forest Development (FFD) financial support.
Dr Mwinyi vowed to improve infrastructure and services to unleash the horticulture potential, further describing the Isles market for horticultural products as huge, with over 90 per cent of all domestic production consumed internally.
Quantifying the size of the domestic market, President Mwinyi said the islands’ 1.9 million population needs 276,000 tonnes of vegetables and fruits annually for each islander to consume 146 kilogrammes as per the World Health Organisation and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommendations.
The estimated 500,000 tourists who visit Zanzibar annually demand over 2,000 tonnes of vegetables and fruits annually worth over 1.6bn/- per 2021 pricing, the president said.
He hyped consumption of vegetables and fruits as inevitable for the good health of wananchi, push for aggressive public awareness campaign in production, processing and consumption of the nutritional produce.
Besides being the key source of quality nutrition, Dr Mwinyi said, horticulture is important to the Zanzibar economy.
“Horticulture is one of the priority industries, owing to its great importance to our economy. We have several measures in store to spur the industry to meet the domestic market and the surplus for export,” he underlined.
Elaborating, he reaffirmed the government commitment to support the money-minting sub-sector through creation of enabling business environment; increased productivity, construction of irrigation infrastructure and markets, research and extension services.
“Indeed, the private sector has a unique role to play in developing horticulture in Zanzibar,” Dr Mwinyi said, appreciating the great work that TAHA has so far performed in the islands.
Equally, he instructed the ministry responsible for agriculture to finalise the Zanzibar horticulture development strategy, to spearhead the mission of transforming the industry in the Isles.
Responding to TAHA concerns, Dr Mwinyi said the government is already working on them. He said the new investor–Dubai National Travel Agency (DNATA)–at Amani Abeid Karume International Airport (AAKIA) is soon embarking on construction of a modern logistic centre that will have cold storage facilities to support horticultural produce business.
He further ordered airport and port authorities to have green belts for the handling of perishable goods. “Logically, you cannot have horticulture produce, which are perishable, going through the normal procedures at airports and ports–they need their own special treatment,” he argued.
TAHA Board Chairman, Engineer Zebadiah Moshi was grateful to the Zanzibar government for according his organization health cooperation since its inception in 2012, making it easier to unleash the horticulture potential.
“It’s our commitment to cherish our valued partnership with the Zanzibar government in order to realise huge horticulture development in Zanzibar together,” Eng Moshi said.
He also thanked TAHA development partners such as USAID, United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP), United Nations Women (UN-WOMEN), Trade Mark East Africa, SIDA, EU and FFD, among others.
Speaking at the ceremony, TAHA Chief Executive Officer Dr Jacqueline Mkindi said the organisation has registered great successes since it made debut in the islands in 2012.
She said Zanzibar was importing 80 per cent of her vegetables and fruits but the organisation has since reduced the imports to 26 per cent as per 2021 records.
Dr Mkindi said the Arusha-headquartered TAHA has connected 8,000 Zanzibar farmers to domestic and export markets, developed the marketing infrastructure and constructed deep wells for irrigation farming. “We are proud of the increased use of farm inputs and productivity,” Dr Mkindi said.
She however decried difficulties in the transportation services, saying facilities at the ports and airports don’t support the export business of perishable goods.
“It’s our humble request to the government to involve horticulture stakeholders in the port expansion projects because we have our unique needs,” she said.
The imposing building whose construction European Union financed through the Agri-Connect project will besides hosting TAHA offices facilitate knowledge sharing among farmers and other horticulture stakeholders in the islands.