Exporters want government to promote investments in the horticulture industry and increase support to save the sector from collapsing.

Luke Mbewe, Zambia Export Growers Association (ZEGA) Chief Executive Officer said under performance of the horticulture industry has resulted in job losses from 15,000 in 2003 to 4,000 this year.

Mbewe told Zambia Daily Mail that support to the industry is necessary as the sub-sector makes a significant contribution to the country’s non-traditional exports with Europe as the main market.

“Government should consider addressing challenges facing the sector such as policy reversals resulting from inadequate consultations with private sector which impact on investor confidence and high airfreight costs to markets.

There is need to also address the high interest rates and lack of industry investments among others,” he said.

Mbewe said Kenya and Ethiopia are the largest and second largest exporters, respectively, because of priority with active support from their governments.

He said in contrast to what is pertaining in Zambia, other regional competitors such as Kenya and Ethiopia whose horticulture industry is thriving, employ between 500,000 and 60,000 workers, respectively.

“The sub-sector is a high forex earner with Kenya realising US$1 billion and Ethiopia US$250 million while Zambia earned US$25 million in 2016,” he said.

Mbewe said lack of support does not resonate with government’s drive to make agriculture the centre of diversified economic growth.

Agriculture is an important contributor to Zambia’s gross domestic product, currently estimated at 35 percent.

He said agriculture is classified as a priority sector and investments should be eligible to be granted incentives.

“Incentives should be extended to the export horticulture sub-sector which is involved in the production and export of fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables,” he said.