There is a strong need for Government and its partners to invest more and capacitate farmers in the horticulture sector for them to increase their annual contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as enshrined in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
Minister of State in charge of monitoring and implementation of special agriculture and related programmes Davis Marapira, revealed this while touring citrus production projects in Beitbridge on Monday.
He said currently, production levels in the sector were below 5 percent and that the target was to increase GDP contributions to 10 percent and above moving into the future.
"Horticulture in Zimbabwe at the moment is still very low, the production is below 5 percent," said the Minister.
"A good example is citrus, as a country we used to do 10 000 hectares and currently, we are only doing 5000 hectares and citrus production has shifted from the northern part (Mazowe) to the southern part (Beitbridge) of the country".
Minister Marapira said in Beitbridge some companies were doing almost 3000 hectares of citrus.
He said these need to be assisted to expand and increase production to be able to meet the demand for citrus locally and for the international market.
The Minister said at the moment the Beitbridge Juice Company was struggling to meet their target of exporting 40 000 tonnes of citrus products annually.
"They need at least 5000 hectares of land for them to be able to do 3000 hectares of citrus and related products.
It is important for the government to give them land and make sure that they have a 99-year lease so that they can access finances," said Minister Marapira.
He added that production levels were also at their lowest in the Eastern Highlands and that there was a need for a lot of commitment especially in issues of investments.
The Minister said the government expects horticulture farming to also peak in the Tokwe Mukosi area where the type of climate, which is in regions 4 and 5 is conducive for citrus and mango farming.
Minister Marapira said a lot of products within the horticulture system were being exported and that it was important for those entities falling under the sector to put more focus on value addition.
"Even if you check where we are today in Beitbridge, oranges from the farmers here they are getting into the Middle East, Europe, America, and Asia," he said.
"So, you will find that the majority of horticulture products can actually generate a lot of foreign currency and contribute to the production of raw materials.
For example, oranges are being used to make orange concentrate, which actually is a raw material for making the popular Mazoe brand".
He said there was a need for more farmers in Beitbridge to expand their citrus projects to cut the import bill on orange concentrate.
Minister Marapira said Bishopstone Estate which is producing at least 100 tonnes of oranges per hectare had also applied for 10 000 hectares of land under the Development Trust of Zimbabwe for similar products.
He said currently, the Estate intends to expand citrus, maize, and sugarcane production which is a huge foreign currency earner.
"Currently they are exporting US$10 million worth of oranges annually derived from 1200 hectares and they can do more with more land and contribute to our economic turnaround strategy.
Bishopstone Estate managing director Mr Robert Park said they had a staff complement of 1200 people drawn from around Beitbridge district.
He said they were harvesting a total of 225 by 2, 2 tonnes trailers of oranges daily and that their new state-of-the-art park-shed can pack between 50 and 60 tonnes per hour.
"We load 11 trucks daily for export and outside fruits season, we grow 20 hectares of maize under drip irrigation and tomatoes for the local markets," said Mr Park.