According to the United Nations, Africa’s agribusiness is expected to be worth $1 trillion by 2030. This is because Africa is better positioned as a conducive farming territory than most continents. About 60% of unused arable land is in Africa. In addition, Africa has an abundant labour force and the climate supports agricultural activity. In Zimbabwe, most of the food is produced by smallholder farmers who use old farming methods and have limited resources. If afforded more resources and machinery, they are likely to produce more. In this article, we explore some of the opportunities that exist in the food industry in the country.
Exports are the lifeblood of our economy. However, due to constrained local production, we are forced to import some of our food requirements. This has further worsened our foreign currency shortages. As such, it is worthwhile to venture into food exports. The markets are there in many countries. In 2017, Zimbabwe exported berries worth US$370 000 and this grew to US$4 million in 2018. This shows massive potential. The global market for blueberries alone is worth US$2.73 billion. Closer to home, an example would be Botswana. They import 11 000 tonnes of Bananas, 12 000 tonnes of Oranges and 9 000 tonnes of pepper. South Africa contributes more than 90% of these requirements. Again, this shows that there is an opportunity in exporting food. Do not let the quality standards, registration processes and other trade regulations deter you.
Food production remains limited due to a lack of adequate resources, financial and otherwise. This is because banks are reluctant to lend to farmers whose land tenure rights are not clearly defined. Without funding, smallholder farmers only produce for their own consumption or sell a bit of their produce to be able to survive. This is where crowd farming comes in. It allows several people to pool their resources together and invest in a farming project. This investment allows the farmer to increase productivity by using modern equipment and machinery and employing qualified personnel. This is an opportunity that you can exploit even if you are not a qualified or experienced farmer. Just come together with other like-minded individuals and fund a project. With more food production, this will reduce the country’s overreliance on imported foods and promote local products.
Currently, most farmers sell their food in a raw, unpackaged and unprocessed state. It is interesting that countries like the Netherlands import certain foods only to further export them to others in the European Union. Apart from economic sanctions stopping us from dealing directly with certain countries, lack of value addition also disqualifies us in certain markets. There is room for players in this industry to invest in value addition. Package your goods nicely or process them by drying, canning and so forth. This will help you fetch higher prices when you sell your produce whether locally or abroad. Although processing equipment can be costly, it’s possible to outsource the process.
Use of technology
As the effects of climate change continue to adversely affect our food production due to droughts and erratic rainfall patterns, it is advisable to leverage the use of technology. This will help you increase your harvest. Technology can help you forecast weather patterns, ascertain your soil qualities and a whole lot more. You can also employ irrigation techniques to ensure your crops have an adequate water supply. Drones and tractors can be used for spraying of chemicals, tilling as well as harvesting. All this increases your chances of a bumper harvest and your chances to make more money.
Healthy fast foods
The words healthy and fast foods are rarely used in one sentence. This is because fast foods are generally considered to be unhealthy, with either too much fat or too much sugar. Nowadays, more and more people are paying attention to what they eat and this means that if you are in this business you should start focussing on healthy foods. Healthy salads, vegetable burgers and other healthy treats are all viable options. Provide your customers with nutritional information so that they are aware of what they are consuming. This is not to say you should do away with the traditional chicken and chips, but, make it healthier and more appealing to more customers.
There are many other opportunities which you can take advantage of in the food industry if you keep your ears open. Always endeavour to be unique in whatever you do.