By Prince Sunduzani
Farmers have raised concern over the cumbersome export process they said was also expensive and had proved to be a barrier to competitive trade.
This emerged at a Dubai market survey information dissemination workshop conducted in Bulawayo on Tuesday where farmers called for a downward review of certification fees and establishment of a decentralised one-stop-shop to conduct the certification process.
The country’s regulations require farmers to obtain an export permit, registration with the Agricultural Market Authority (AMA) and a phytosanitary certificate from the plant quarantine department. The process costs between $150 and $500 per year for individuals and companies in addition to a $30 fee charged per consignment and static fee of $70 for three months.
Farmers who attended the gathering said that the fees were a burden to small holder operators who are trying to break into the export market.
“Exports are critical to the country’s economic revival. Authorities should remove the many barriers to export as possible. The costs are a bit high because most people haven’t really started making much money.
“At a later stage when most people have the capacity to do so then maybe the costs can be revised upwards, but for now a reduction of some of the fees is needed to facilitate exports,” said Sibusiso Nsimbi, a small-holder farmer from Esigodini.
Another farmer, Willie Makumbe concurred, adding that the documentation process was prohibitive as most of it has to be done in Harare. He said this was a major cost driver as it added costs onto the already costly documentation process.
“It limits the farmer because every time you have to do this you now have to rush to Harare, which is expensive. They should open an office here (Bulawayo) to improve the ease of doing. Farmers are dis-incentivised because they are not even sure that if they go to Harare they will get that permit. The processes are many and they consume time and money.
“Permits should be decentralised even up to district level or be put online so that everything becomes much easier,” said Mr Makumbe.
AMA director Maxwell Chikanda, acknowledged farmers’ concerns and said the authority was working on improving the process as part of Government efforts to improve the ease of doing business.
“The aspect of ease of doing business has been accepted in principle in Government circles.
“There are a number of initiatives that have been taken to ensure that it becomes more easier to do business.
“Various consultations and different levels are being done and the Government is listening to people on the ground and taking their recommendations into account,” he said.
Last year, Zimbabwe was ranked number 159 out of 170 countries on ease of doing business and Government has been on a drive to improve that by amending and upgrading systems in its various departments to create an investor friendly environment. The measures are expected to improve investment and reduce barriers to trade that come with too much red-tape.