As a nation we seem to be so stuck on not beneficiating our natural resources & the same holds true for agriculture. For instance, 95% of the tobacco we produce every year is exported raw. This is clearly a disservice to ourselves because an un-beneficiated product fetches a lower market value as compared to had it been beneficiated. Value addition is a key stimulant for the resuscitation of industries & the creation of employment. Processed foods account for at least 75% of the world’s total food revenues – this means agro processing is critical. Let’s discuss some significant areas of business opportunities in the agro processing domain locally.
Agro Processing/Value Addition
This is a cluster of agriculture that deals with the processing of raw agricultural produce or the subsequent manufacture of products from them or their intermediary products. Broadly, this cluster can be subdivided into up-stream or down-stream categories. Up-stream deals with the processing of agricultural produce namely, canning, milling, tanning etc. Down-stream deals with the manufacture of products from agricultural-based material namely, bread, textiles etc.
Let’s look at some areas of business opportunity:
Cooking oil is a major basic commodity, which for the most part we import from neighbouring South Africa. This is in stark contrast to the many local agricultural crops we have from which cooking can be extracted from. Cotton seed, sunflowers, soya beans to name just a few – we even have favourable weather for these types of crops. If one purposes to grow these on a large scale with the aim of ultimately extracting cooking oil, lots of money can be made from this.
Livestock production is very prevalent in Zimbabwe namely, poultry, cattle, rabbits, piggery etc. The range of ingredients needed for the production of stock feed is infinitely varied. Maize, sorghum, soya beans, cotton seed, sunflower etc, are some of the many agricultural crops that can be processed & mixed to produce stock feeds. Venturing into producing these crops or sourcing them, and processing them into stock feeds is a worthy business – stock feeds are on high demand!
Locally we consume well over a million tonnes of maize annually & of course not forgetting wheat plus many other grain-based crops. Most millers have down-scaled operations or went out business due to debts and poor revenue inflows. This is an industry you can get into either on the small, medium or large scale. There will always be grain that needs to be milled, be it locally produced or imported.
A lot of crops particularly horticulture ones are highly perishable – this usually results in losses. You can be a game changer by growing or sourcing certain crops and then selling them in preserved states. For instance, canning (beans, tomatoes, fruit etc), dried vegetables are some of the examples. There are lots of crops with which you can preserve and earn more market value. Preservation can even work for meat-based produce.
Aquaculture has vastly increased in Zimbabwe especially now that there are home-based fisheries that one can be taught on and establish by oneself. There are a lot of processed products that can be made from fish – move away from just selling them raw. Did you know that you can make glue from heating fish skin & bones in water? Emulsions, hydrolysates, oils, protein powder etc, are some of the products that can be wrought from fish. More research & development must be explored in this area – lots of untapped potential here. Fish waste left after processing can even be processed into stock feed. Fish can have remarkable applications in the medicine, detergents & cosmetics industries.
Just like mushrooms sprout, the mushroom growing industry has really gained traction locally. One can now easily be taught to grow them at home as opposed to waiting upon the rainy season. There are lots of processed products that can be made from mushrooms namely, pickled mushrooms, mushroom seasonings, canned mushrooms, dried mushrooms etc. There is an all-year round market & demand for mushrooms.
I believe there is a lot of money to be made from this domain. The prevailing hot weather in the country for the most part is best suited for these small grains. Processed grains play a role in stock feed productions, pasta, cereals, beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and so on. For instance, you can make beverages, syrups, jams, sauces, cookies etc from sorghum. Small grains are usually looked down upon but a serious focus on processing them promises big bucks.
This is obviously a big industry that is much diversified. The market for processed meat products is huge, from sausages, dried meat to corned meat, canned meat, cured meat, ham, smoked meat etc. This is a business field worth venturing into.
There are a lot of value-added services that you can provide for agro processors as a business and make tonnes of money. Some of them are packaging, micro-financing, solar services, IT services, consultancy, support services, transportation, construction services, cold chain management etc. I’m confident if you come up with service provision businesses tailored specifically for the agro processing industry it can be quite profitable.
Agro processing or value addition is critical to reviving the economy, creating employment and improving the livelihoods of indigenous Zimbabweans. If we see more people engaging in this industry that will definitely drive down the prices of basic commodities. The affordability of most basic commodities right now is impacted by the importation of whole products or ingredients required in their ultimate production. Therefore let’s be inspired and driven to setup businesses in the agro processing industry.