Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland BureauAGRO-MARKETING company, Brands Fresh, has recorded a significant decline in revenue in the first six months of this year due to depressed demand of bananas during the Covid-19 period.
The company, which distributes fresh produce throughout the country, mainly buys the fruit from farmers in Honde Valley and has cut back supply from a peak of about 40 tonnes per week to less than 10 tonnes during the same period.
More than 75 percent of the crop distributed by the company is taken from Honde Valley while the rest comes from Mutorashanga, Middle Sabi and Kariba.
Brands Fresh agronomist Mr Edward Madewekunze said the Covid-19 period had affected both the company and the banana farmers who supply them.
“This pandemic has been a major blow and everyone is feeling the effects. In March, we reduced our uptake of bananas from 40 tonnes to about 10 tonnes. But now that winter is here, uptake has reduced further to about five tonnes per week sometimes. Our Mutare market usually takes up two tonnes per week but now we only supply between 500 kgs-1 tonne per week,” he said.
The market has also been affected by a drop in prices as a result of shortage of liquidity on the part of the consumers.
Mr Madewekunze said before March, they were buying them at $6,30 and went down to as low as $4 per kg.
He said although prices were expected to increase during the winter due to low supply, revenues were anticipated to remain depressed.
“After this period, we will have to rethink strategies we can put in place to make sure that we regain the market lost. We want to re-engage some of the farmers that we had lost over the years who were now selling their bananas to middlemen offering cash transactions,” said Mr Madewekunze.
The shrunk market has also had an impact on the banana producers, most of whom are now left with tonnes of fruit at the risk of rotting.
The middlemen can no longer travel as they used to and this has left the farmers with nowhere to sell their produce.
Mr Enock Madzinga, a farmer from Mandeya 2 Village said they were being forced to sell some of their bananas to the community at ridiculously low prices or they end up for their own consumption.
“Since the company cannot take up as much as it used to, we can either take them to the vegetable markets in Mutare and Mbare in Harare but the prices are not favourable because transport costs are too high.
“We also have prices of inputs which haven’t stopped increasing since the lockdown began.
“Whether we are selling or not, we still need to apply fertiliser which is expense but cannot run away from it,” he said.
He said prospects for recovering were very low unless companies they work with can come back to assist them with capital once things go back to normal.
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