Zimbabwe bans fruit, vegetable imports as forex crunch deepens. (File Picture: Reuters)
HARARE - Zimbabwe has been engulfed by fruit shortages after the government banned imports and other horticultural products with immediate effect.

Producers yesterday said while the ban would be welcome for some products it would shorten the availability of apples and pears whose production in Zimbabwe is constrained.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told state media that the the imports wasted the much needed foreign currency”. This means that the importation of fruit and vegetables will be stopped immediately,” Made said. “We are finalising on the exact list of foreign-produced fruits that are occupying shelves in shops.” 

Zimbabwe is battling worsening foreign currency shortages that have been epitomized by finance institutions running out of bank notes and the government struggling to mobilise foreign currency for key imports such as medicines, power and raw materials among others.

Data from Zimstats, the national statistics agency shows that as much as $80 million was spent on horticulture produce imports in 2016. Horticultural experts yesterday told Business Report that there was no need to import produce such as carrots, tomatoes and vegetables as they could be farmed locally.

A street fruit vendor counts his bond notes in Harare
“Why should we import carrots and tomatoes because by importing tomatoes we are essentially importing water,” said the Fresh Produce Marketers Association of Zimbabwe’s .Newton Jaravani.

“We are in agreement with government and our membership feels that where there are shortages people should engage local growers and we will be able to grow the fresh produce.”

Zimbabwe is still struggling to meet demand and relies on imports for some produce but traders warn that there could be more shortages following the latest ban. Mbare Musika, a trader at the biggest fresh produce market in Harare, said imports, mostly from the southern African region, “make up for a bigger share of horticulture products and fruits sold” at the market.  

“We don’t have capacity on apples and we have a deficit of 20 000 tonnes a year,” Musika said. “We will engage government to explain the situation because right now no one can go without an apple.”

- BUSINESS REPORT