THE Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) says the importation of potatoes is still necessary for the country as local farmers are still incapacitated to produce enough to sustain national demand.
This is contrary to calls from other players in the sector to increase tariffs on imported horticulture products like potatoes and tomatoes as they claim that local farmers were now capable of meeting the national demand.
CFU president Charles Taffs told Southern Eye Business that despite the improvement in potato production in the country, local farmers were still not able to sustain demand, largely due to high cost structures which are uncompetitive in the region.
“There is a significant improvement in potato production in the country, but at the moment we cannot sustain the national demand and we have to rely on imports to cover for the deficit,” Taffs said.
He added that the local industry was being hamstrung by high production costs arising from dilapidated infrastructure and high tariffs.
“Our costs of production are three times higher than our competitors in the region and if we are to produce enough to meet national demand we have to first deal with our cost structure,” Taffs added.
According to CFU, it costs between $4 500 and $6 500 per hectare to produce potatoes, which is out of reach for most small-scale farmers.
The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union recently called upon the government through the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to impose stiffer measures to curb the importation of potatoes, citing alleged crowding of local producers who have been forced to reduce their prices to compete with imported products.
In 2010, AMA imposed a ban on imported potatoes, mainly from South Africa, as local producers were failing to compete with prices of the country’s southern neighbour.
However, stricter measures to enforce the ban would have resulted in serious shortages of the produce on the market, as
local producers failed to meet demand.
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