The Hague - African countries should consider long term investments in horticulture as a profitable sector that can boost their exports, Dutch experts have advised.
The call was made by various experts in the sector during a tour organised for foreign journalists to help them gain knowledge about innovations and products in the Dutch horticulture sector.
The Netherlands is the second largest producer of horticulture products, after the USA, with a turnover of 16 billion Euros and 17bn Euros in re-exports.
Experts said that most African countries have suitable weather conditions for growing fruits, vegetables and flowers that can generate high income for farmers if governments and the private sector partnered to develop the sector.
“Investing in horticulture, especially vegetable chain, is a very good investment in Africa nowadays. I think in many countries in Africa there is a growing group of entrepreneurs that could take horticulture to the next level.
There is no reason for the continent to remain an importer of food,” said Rubert Konijn, the head of Topsector Horticulture, a government agency under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Only a few African countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania have ventured into horticulture; but Konijn stressed the need for government involvement in developing comprehensive programmes if the continent is to cash in from this lucrative business.
“Because of the need to involve smallholder farmers, it is important that governments make comprehensive horticulture development programmes in their countries, along with credit systems, training and extension services,” he said
The Netherlands has over 11,000 farmers mostly, practicing greenhouse farming on over 10,000 hectares. Most grown products include tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and a variety of flowers .
On the other hand, Africa’s horticulture exports account for just 2.8 per cent of the global trade.
While The Netherlands uses advanced technology, experts say that there are cheaper production methods that can be designed to suit a particular country’s financial means, climate and other factors.
Konijn referred to Rwanda as a country conducive for vegetable growing.
“Rwanda is an ideal country for piloting this approach since the government and private sector are willing to invest. The country also has good climate among other conditions,” he said.