The Sunday Mail
The push for export-led economic development is dependent on a number of factors, which include ability to maximise on opportunities presented by low-hanging fruits.
The horticultural sector undoubtedly offers quick-wins for Zimbabwean exporters as the country already enjoys some competitive advantages.
Avocados, amongst an array of horticultural products, offer viable solutions for local exporters who are looking at increasing their export values.
Given Zimbabwe’s favourable climatic conditions, avocados are being commercially grown in the Eastern Highlands.
There currently exists scope to export to the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia.
According to Trade Map — a platform that provides trade statistics and market access information for export development — Zimbabwe is the fifth-largest exporter of avocados in Africa, and there is potential to perform even better.
For Zimbabwean farmers, avocados present opportunities to establish a position in the global market, which can be used as the springboard to increase exports of other products, as it is now called a super food; that is, high in nutrients and low in calories.
There are two main varieties of avocados produced and consumed across the world: the Hass avocado and green-skinned avocados such as Fuerte, Bacon, Gwen, MacArthur, Pinkerton, Reed and Zutano avocados.
Around 80 percent of avocados produced and consumed worldwide are Hass, which also fortuitously happens to be the main variety grown for exports in Zimbabwe. Compared to green-skinned avocados, Hass avocados are richer in fat and, thus, creamier. Current Hass avocado production capacity cannot meet global demand as new Asian markets such as Japan and China have significantly increased consumption of the same.
Avocados have many culinary uses, from sandwich toppings to guacamole dip. Additionally, avocados can be value added to produce cooking oil, cosmetics and some soaps.
The fruit also has a high mono-unsaturated (healthy) fat content, which makes it a good substitute for vegetarians or people without access to meat and dairy products. Globally, consumers have increasingly become health conscious, and avocados are considered a superfood with a high content of vitamin E, iron, potassium and niacin. The global demand for avocados has been steadily increasing for the last decade, and the trend is expected to continue.
According to Trade Map, the global import of avocados almost doubled in the period 2014 to 2018 from US$3 billion to US$5,6 billion.
For 2019, demand for avocados had been forecast to exceed available supply.
Although the global value has doubled in the last five years, Zimbabwe’s share remains low, with around US$2,5 million exported in 2018, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat).
However, the exports have been steadily rising in the past three years.
Official figures from Zimstat indicate that Zimbabwe’s avocado exports increased from US$851 000 in 2016 to US$1,7 million in 2017 and US$2,5 million in 2018.
The growth is expected to accelerate as recent plantings begin to mature and contribute towards export volumes.
Thus, local exporters can sustain this growth and increase exports by targeting already performing markets for local horticultural produce and understanding global market performance.
Global supply of avocados peaks from February to September, when prices become relatively lower.
Local suppliers can, therefore, target the window when supplies are low to increase the value of their exports.
Notably, during periods of low global supply, especially in the October to November period, prices of small volumes of ready-to-eat avocados tend to increase to approximately US$15 per 4kg box.
While local production for export is mainly being done by corporate entities, there is scope for small-scale farmers to contribute significantly in this sub-sector as is happening in countries such as Kenya.
This will provide an opportunity for small-scale farmers in the Eastern Highlands (areas such as Chipinge and Chimanimani) to benefit from rising demand.
Currently, the top export markets for local avocados are South Africa, Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom.
In the Southern African region, there is potential to supply Angola and Namibia.
Some of the promising markets for locally produced avocados include Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Poland and Spain
To easily penetrate European markets, Zimbabwean farmers can take advantage of the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA), which allows local players to enjoy duty-free quota-free access to the European Union (EU) market.
Small-scale farmers can also focus on these markets as their market entry requirements are easily attainable compared to the EU and Asian markets.
In the medium to long term, China and the rest of Asia are promising prospects.
Allan Majuru is the chief executive officer of ZimTrade