Comesa, EAC eye $25 million in horticulture trade by 2031

Horticulture (1)
Horticulture (1)

What you need to know:

  • The Comesa-EAC Horticultural Accelerator presents a significant opportunity to unlock the vast potential of the horticultural sector in Eastern and Southern Africa

Arusha. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC) have formed a horticultural body to spur intra-regional trade in fruits and vegetables.

Dubbed Comesa-EAC Horticultural Accelerator (CEHA), with its base in Lusaka, Zambia, the body targets intra-regional trade value in fruits and vegetables to be $25 million and global exports from $416 million to $950 million by 2031.

CEHA Regional Coordinator, Mr Appolo Owuor, told the maiden stakeholders meeting held in Arusha recently that the new organisation and its marshal plan would be launched in mid-March 2024 to spearhead the growth of the horticultural industry, beginning with avocado, onion and Irish potato value chains.

Mr Owuor said that studies show that avocado, onion, and Irish potato can spawn a combined $230 million per year for approximately 450,000 smallholder farmers of a minimum farm size of 0.4 hectare with 60 avocado trees, or 1 hectare for onion farmers in two regional economic communities (RECs).

Other value chains, such as tomato and cabbage, may be added in the future, as will be recommended through the CEHA structures, Mr Owuor told a maiden stakeholders’ meeting for the Tanzania chapter in Arusha, hosted by Taha. CEHA’s core business is to harmonise Comesa-EAC’s fragmented regulatory and standard policies, coordinate the production chain, address poor storage and transportation snags for perishable crops, and ensure the availability of quality and sufficient seeds.

“For instance, some ports within the EAC that serve the rest of the landlocked countries lack what we call green lanes to fast-track clearance of perishable goods to overseas markets, so CEHA seeks to tackle such a challenge,” he explained.

The volume of preserved or processed fruits and vegetables is also expected to double from 8 percent in 2021 to 16 percent in 2031, when time from farm-to-market will decline by 50 percent and the farm gate price will be reduced by 25 percent.

Farmers and processors will receive adequate and affordable finance through CEHA, and five policy-related barriers to trade will be removed, increasing the value of fresh and processed horticultural products to $500 million and creating 100,000 additional jobs along the value chains.

While post-harvest losses will be halved from 40 percent at the moment, yields in fruits and vegetables are expected to grow by 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively, with labour productivity standing at 25 percent.

Farmers will be adopting climate-smart practices to maintain profitability, including growing crops that are resilient to predicted changes in local weather patterns, the official of CEHA, head-quartered in Lusaka, Zambia, said.

Building the capacity of the horticultural industry across Eastern and Southern Africa is in the 2021–2031 Strategic Plan of the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (Actesa), a specialised agency of Comesa tasked with integrating smallholder farmers into domestic, regional, and international markets. For its part, the EAC also prioritises the potential for horticulture in its Fruit and Vegetable Strategy 2021–2031.

CEHA will, among other things, coordinate primarily private sector-led investments into production and processing clusters in support of the Comesa, EAC and individual country horticultural strategies. Moreover, it will facilitate access to both working capital and capex finance, as well as technical assistance for processors, farmers, and other agribusinesses across the value chains to accelerate growth. “CEHA also envisions mobilising individual horticultural growers to form farmer’s organisations in a bid to have bargaining power and ease the purchasing process and access to finance, among others, for them to go commercial and reap the benefits of their hard work as part of a broad strategy for addressing a historical injustice to farmers,” Mr Owuor explained.

Five countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have been selected for the accelerator drive based on the financial contribution of the industry to their economies.

In Kenya alone, avocados and Irish potatoes are estimated to have the potential to create more than 50,000 and 380,000 additional jobs, respectively.

In Tanzania and Uganda, the onion value chain is expected to capitalise on strong brand quality and growing demand to create more than 230,000 rural jobs. Currently at $4 billion, high-value fruits and vegetables are consistently more profitable than cereals and other traditional staple crops, and their demands at both domestic and export markets keep on increasing.

The horticultural industry offers significant potential for improving financial urgency among women, given that a 50-percent proportion of female workers are along the value chains, from farming to processing and marketing.

Officiating at the first stakeholders’ meeting, the Director General for Cereals and Other Produce Regulatory Authority (Copra), Ms Irene Madeje Mlola, pledged to work closely with Taha to maximise the benefit from CEHA.