11 April 2023

Empowering farmers: Enhancing Zambia's horticultural exports

by Inga Chilashvili Chenge Nyagweta / in Impact story

Zambia's horticultural sector has faced significant challenges in recent years, making it difficult for local farmers to export their produce to the global food market. From time-consuming border processing to inadequate resources and legislation, the sector has been facing a myriad of obstacles that have hindered its growth and competitiveness.

Farming is a demanding sector, particularly for those seeking to compete in the global market. Many farmers in Zambia are unable to meet international standards and other requirements in importing countries that can help them implement good agricultural practices and stand out on the world stage.

However, despite the challenges, there are some beacons of success. York Farms Ltd, a commercial farm based in Zambia, has emerged as a shining example of what can be achieved through good business practices and dedication backed up with the right support and resources. Established in 1995, York Farms specializes in growing and packing fresh vegetables and roses for export and local consumption. The company has two farms, one located in Makeni, southeast of the capital city, Lusaka, and the other in the rural area 30km west of Lusaka, known as Kashima Farm. With a workforce of about 650 to 800 employees, most of whom come from nearby communities, York Farms is exporting most of its produce to countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa. This impressive feat has been made possible by joining the global supply chain of agricultural products and complying with international standards.

The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) collaborated on a Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) project to improve the phytosanitary capacity of Zambia's plant-based export sectors. This collaboration, implemented through the Ministry of Commerce and Trade and the Plant Quarantine and Phytosanitary Service (PQPS), enabled Zambia to export among other products blueberries and avocados to China and South Africa, thereby improving livelihoods at the grassroots level in Zambia. The project has also supported the development of a regional strategy for the Plant ‘Quarantine Pest’ Surveillance Strategy to optimize scarce resources, which has helped validate a draft framework on cost-sharing/resourcing arrangements for regional SPS operational activities. The project has further built the capacities of senior PQPS staff in technical bilateral market negotiations, which was a skill required to facilitate market access requests from China and South Africa for various products.

In addition, the support from EIF and STDF facilitated the development of a draft National Standard on Prerequisite Programmes (PRP) on Food Safety and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), which is an essential part of the production process of companies that want to be certified for exports. The project has also validated pest information packages for rice and pineapple for market access, and its efforts to develop a regional pest quarantine pest list are likely to increase regional trade and cooperation.

Adherence to the international standards has made it possible for York Farms to be part of a small group of businesses from least-developed countries (LDCs) that have made it on the global supply chain of agricultural products. These standards require farmers to manage pests and work closely with the PQPS of Zambia to ensure that their products meet the importing country's requirements.

Compliance with the requirements has not always been smooth sailing for York Farms. But, thanks to the support from and collaboration with the Government of Zambia, the EIF and STDF, York Farms has been able to enhance its pest management practices and minimize interceptions and rejections. This has not only benefited the company but also helped other farmers in Zambia understand the requirements needed to sell their products overseas. 

This assistance has shortened processing time and travel costs, bolstered inspection capacity, and opened new markets for horticultural and floricultural products.

Despite these successes, many potential producers in Zambia continue to face significant obstacles when exporting their goods. A dearth of funds, limited market access, and inadequate training are among the primary challenges they confront. Greater efforts are needed to ensure that these farmers and agricultural companies can access the resources and support that are necessary to access and compete in international markets.

At the end of the day, farming in LDCs is more than just a business; it is a way of life. Farmers work tirelessly to supply food to our tables, and they merit our unwavering support. With the right assistance and resources, these farmers can thrive and contribute to feeding the world.

Any views and opinions expressed on Trade for Development News are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of EIF.