Zanzibar – Zanzibar President Hussein Mwini yesterday directed the Ministry of Agriculture to collaborate with all stakeholders to increase fruit and vegetable production in the country for domestic and export markets.
Dr. Mwini announced major reforms to the horticultural industry in his drive to cater to both domestic and export markets.
“We have to work hard to meet local demand and explore the huge opportunities in export markets,” he said at the official launch of the state-of-the-art horticulture knowledge centre, the first of its kind in Zanzibar.
It was built by the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) with funding from the European Union and Finland’s Food and Forestry Development (FFD).
Dr. Mwini pledged to improve infrastructure and services to unleash the potential of horticulture, adding that the market for the island’s fruit and vegetable products is huge, with more than 90 percent of the country’s produce being consumed locally.
Measuring the size of the domestic market, President Mwini said the islands’ 1.9 million people need 276,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every year for each island to consume 146kg according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The estimated 500,000 tourists visiting Zanzibar demand more than 2,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables annually, valued at over 1.6 billion by 2021.
Eating fruits and vegetables is essential for your good health, he said.
Besides being a key source of quality nutrition, horticulture is important to Zanzibar’s economy, Dr. Mwini said.
“Horticulture is one of the priority industries in view of its high importance to our economy. Several measures have been prepared to enable the industry to meet the domestic market and gain profits for the foreign market,” he underlined.
Explaining, he affirmed the government’s commitment to support the mining sub-sector by creating a business environment. Increasing productivity, building irrigation infrastructure and markets, research and extension services.
“Indeed, the private sector has a special role to play in horticulture in Zanzibar,” said Dr. Mwini, praising the great work TAHA has done so far in the islands.
He also directed the Ministry responsible for Agriculture to finalize Zanzibar’s horticulture strategy to lead the mission to transform the industry in the islands.
Responding to TAHA’s concerns, Dr. Mwini said the government is already working on them. The new investor – Dubai National Travel Agency (DNTA) – will soon start construction of a modern logistics center with cold storage at Amani Abid Karoumeh International Airport (AAKIA) to support the trade of fruit and vegetable products.
He also ordered airport and port authorities to destroy green belts. “Logically, you can’t have perishable horticultural products at airports and ports following standard procedures – they need their own special care,” he argued.
TEA Board Chairman Engineer Zebadiah Moshi thanked the Zanzibar government for its support in unleashing the potential of horticulture under his organization’s health partnership since its inception in 2012.
“It is our commitment to nurture our precious partnership with the Government of Zanzibar to jointly realize massive horticultural development in Zanzibar,” said Engineer Moshi.
He thanked TAHA’s development partners such as USAID, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UN-WOMEN, Trade Mark East Africa, SIDA, European Union and FFD among others.
Speaking at the ceremony, TAHA CEO Dr. Jacqueline McKindy said the organization has made great strides since its first launch in the islands in 2012.
Zanzibar used to import 80 percent of its fruits and vegetables, but the company’s revenue has dropped to 26 percent in 2021.
Dr. Mekindi has led the Arusha-headquartered TAHA by linking 8,000 Zanzibar farmers to domestic and export markets, developing marketing infrastructure and developing deep wells for irrigation. “We are proud to have increased farm inputs and productivity,” said Dr Mekindi.
But she countered the problem with transport services, saying that facilities at ports and airports do not support the export of perishable goods.
“We humbly appeal to the government to involve horticulture stakeholders in the port expansion projects as we have our special interest,” she said.
The massive building, funded by the EU’s Agri-Connect project, will not only house the TAHA offices, but will also facilitate knowledge sharing between farmers and other horticultural stakeholders in the islands.