The Indaba Agricultural Policy and Research Institute (IAPRI) has called on stakeholders to support smallholder horticultural production by establishing strategically and centrally located markets in Lusaka and the Copperbelt.

In its advisory note for Government on Opportunities and Challenges in Enhancing Agricultural Development in Zambia, IAPRI says Government should also engage the private sector to support smallholder horticultural production and marketing in the country if the unexploited sub-sector is to generate revenue and create jobs.

IAPRI says despite providing significant value-added potential and opportunity to spur development in the urban and rural areas, the horticulture sub-sector receives less public sector support, hence the need to recognise its importance.

“Government needs to make an effort to support smallholder horticultural production and marketing, through as a first step and matter of priority by facilitating the development of strategically-located wholesale markets with appropriate hard and soft market infrastructure through private-public partnerships and stakeholders starting with Lusaka and the Copperbelt and later, it can be replicated to other parts of the country,” IAPRI says.

It observes that rapidly rising urban populations, changing consumption patterns and renewed growth in per capita incomes in Zambia are creating major opportunities for local farmers by driving growth in domestic and regional market demand for food including horticultural crops (fruits and vegetables).

IAPRI, however, says in trying to exploit opportunities, smallholder farmers experience challenges such as high cost of production and marketing and lack of knowledge requirement for horticulture production among others.

IAPRI has cited the horticultural wholesale section of Lusaka’s Soweto market, which plays a critical role in the supply chains, but it is faced with infrastructural and management problems.

Currently, Soweto market needs appropriate infrastructure development, loading and off-loading bays, storage facilities, as well as the participation of trained and certified brokers.

“Horticulture provides significant value added potential through packaging, canning, slicing and dicing, and production of juice, sauces, preserves, and inputs to other food processing activities, all of which provide important opportunity to create jobs in the country,” IAPRI notes