The International Trade Centre (ITC) has hailed the New Dispensation for opening up the economy to international businesses whose contribution to the Zimbabwean economy has the potential to improve people’s lives.

Speaking at the launch of a Zimbabwe/United Kingdom Trade Partnership Programme which is poised to open market opportunities for Zimbabwean horticultural produce into the UK, ITC executive director Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton said the partnership will have a positive impact on small holder farmers.

The ITC is a multilateral agency which has a joint mandate with the United Nations through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Trade Organization.

The partnership which was launched by Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza on behalf of her Foreign Affairs and International Trade counterpart Dr Sibusiso Moyo will give up to 600 small holder farmers access to the United Kingdom market on relaxed access terms.

The farmers will also get financial capacitation from the UK through its Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

“I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office,” Ms Coke-Hamilton told delegates to the launch through a virtual platform.

“To the Government of Zimbabwe, I acknowledge its commitment to opening up the economy to global businesses and a timely ratification of the UK EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement),” she said.

The launch of the partnership is in line with the Government’s new economic diplomacy thrust which seeks to promote the country’s economic interest in its engagements with other countries.

It is also in tandem with the quest to grow the country’s agriculture industry to a US$8,2 billion industry by 2025 under the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy launched by President Mnangagwa in August.

Under the deal, Zimbabwe is expecting to boost its export figures to the UK which currently stand at about US$14 million in 2019 from an annual high in 1999 when Zimbabwe exported US$45million worth of horticultural products and US$39million worth of flowers.

The basket is dominated by produce such as peas, avocadoes, oranges, berries, flowers, plums, and tea and all these are expected to register exponential growth on the back of this launched partnership.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Nzenza said the partnership is a welcome development.

“On behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe, I wish to appreciate the UKTP Programme which is designed to facilitate Zimbabwe, as a party to the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA)-United Kingdom Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), to meaningfully tap the benefits of the Trade Agreement by increasing bilateral trade with the UK,” said Minister Nzenza.

“The focus of this programme to build Zimbabwe’s capacity to increase exports of horticultural products to the UK and also to EU markets, is very much appropriate and timely for Zimbabwe.

“The horticultural sector is one of the identified priority sectors that is targeted to contribute to the attainment of our export targets towards Vision 2030. This is a quick-win sector which the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Development is strategically developing and positioning through the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan,” she said.

Under the Second Republic’s reengagement policy, Zimbabwe continues to build bridges with all world nations notwithstanding the continued existence of illegal economic sanctions that were imposed by western countries.