The Sunday Mail
THE devolution agenda being spearheaded by President Mnangagwa is premised on the realisation that national development targets can be easily attained through every Zimbabwean’s full and equal participation.
In line with this agenda, the Second Republic is presently implementing various programmes that are geared towards delivering equitable economic development and equalisation for all parts of the country.
Implementation of these programmes is expected to unlock meaningful economic opportunities that will spur the attainment of Vision 2030.
As President Mnangagwa has made clear, individual provinces must champion their development, with all stakeholders being encouraged to exploit their regions’ competitive advantages.
In Zimbabwe, each province is distinct and endowed with resources that can aid in the creation of export goods that can thrive in foreign markets.
For example, Manicaland province — a gateway to Mozambique — has good climatic conditions that makes it easy to grow diversified agricultural products for export markets.
The province spans all five natural ecological regions, from the high rainfall areas of Vumba Highlands in Region 1 to the dry and hot areas of Middle Sabi in Region 5, creating opportunities for a range of agricultural activities.
The province is endowed with perennial rivers, including Odzi River, which stretches from Nyanga district through Mutasa and Mutare West districts, feeding into Save River, which borders Manicaland and Masvingo provinces to the south.
Other perennial rivers in the province include Pungwe and Honde in Mutasa district; as well as Mpudzi, Muroti, Mukuni and Sakubva in Mutare.
These rivers and several dams in the province create good conditions for growing crops throughout the year.
There is no doubt that horticulture is one of the lowest-hanging export fruits for businesses and communities in Manicaland.
The sector has the potential to gain a strong global competitive position, thereby providing substantial social and economic benefits to the province and the country at large.
In addition, global markets for horticultural products remain attractive and Manicaland has the potential to supply these markets since the production of fruits and vegetables keep moving away from highly industrialised nations, as exports continue to outpace production.
The dynamic region produces fresh produce, which is also exported to various international destinations.
There is also scope for the production of herbs, baobab products and capsicum products like paprika and chillies.
Currently, products that are exported with meaningful value include avocados, bananas, flowers, tea, coffee, macadamia, citrus fruits, mangoes, cotton, pineapples, sweet potatoes, honey and sugar beans.
The growing demand for macadamia, as a healthy nut, across the world presents huge opportunities for Manicaland.
The market for macadamia has been growing consistently over the years and there are no signs of that changing.
The country’s macadamia exports are coming from Manicaland, especially from areas such as Chipinge, Chimanimani, Honde Valley, and Nyanga.
Their markets span China, South Africa, Thailand, Malawi and Hong Kong.
Zimbabwe’s exports of macadamia in shell in 2021 were around US$14 million, according to Trade Map, with most of the product coming from Manicaland.
Crucially, there remains room for improved performance.
Producers can earn more from export markets if they value-added their produce, instead of exporting nuts in shell, which make up the bulk of what Manicaland is currently exporting.
The Kenyan experience, where deliberate policies have been put in place to promote value addition, has shown that export revenue can increase through value addition.
Zimbabwe can pursue a similar model.
In Kenya, the exportation of macadamia nuts in shell without written authorisation from the Cabinet Secretary has been illegal since 2009, under Section 43 of the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Act.
As a result, all macadamia nuts produced in Kenya are processed locally, which has, in turn, helped increase earnings.
This also necessitated development of local processers and advanced domestic value addition. It also created jobs and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers, particularly in rural communities.
Value-added macadamia products can be targeted at specific markets that will guarantee sales.
For example, peeled macadamia is an ingredient for some traditional dishes in Japan.
In Europe, the nuts are used to produce nut oil, macadamia milk, macadamia honey, butter and chocolate coating.
Bananas are also a low-hanging plantation fruit for districts in Manicaland.
Bananas are mainly grown in Mutasa, Honde Valley, Rusitu, Chimanimani and Chipinge areas.
Markets for bananas include South Africa and Zambia, while there is also room to supply Mozambique and Botswana.
New plantations that have been coming up in areas such as Middle-Sabi can be used as models to integrate smallholder farmers into mainstream export business.
Capacity building and financial support must be provided to farmers, especially smallholder rural growers, who make up the bulk of banana producers in the province.
Further, a study conducted a few years ago revealed that most bananas produced by smallholder farmers in Manicaland are organic and this can be used as a strong selling point to increase exports.
However, necessary organic certification will be required, which will enable farmers to earn premium market value.
Tea and coffee
Currently, Zimbabwe’s exports of tea and coffee are valued at around US$19 million, according to Trade Map. Key export destinations of tea from the country include South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.
Zimbabwean coffee is exported to countries like Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
Tamuka mu Zimbabwe is a prime coffee brand that is sold in Sweden by Nepresso.
This coffee is predominantly produced by smallholder farmers, and its quality has attracted the established coffee blender.
Manicaland province should also take advantage of popular tea brands like Tanganda, Quickbrew and Three Leaves to increase exports.
Established companies like Tanganda, Ariston and Eastern Highlands Plantation have thriving outgrower schemes that have helped boost their exports.
Similar models can also be replicated by other established groups producing other crops.
Avocados and other fruits
Thanks to the growing production of avocados in Manicaland, Zimbabwe is emerging as a leading exporter of the fruit in Africa.
What is encouraging about avocado production is that the variety grown in Manicaland is exactly what is being sought after around the world.
Around 80 percent of avocados produced and consumed worldwide are of the Hass variety, which also happens to be the main type grown in Manicaland for export.
In addition to avocados, Manicaland is home to large stone fruit and apple plantations.
Examples of stone fruits that have potential for export growth are cherries, peaches, apricots, lychees, nectarines, plums, berries and mangoes.
The taste of these fruits has since been confirmed to be of top quality by some of the leading retailers in Europe, which is a key market for Manicaland-grown fruits.
Zimbabwe’s commercial timber industry is concentrated in the Eastern Highlands of Manicaland. The province has favourable climatic and environmental conditions for fast-growing exotic tree species.
Manicaland is home to several types of wood that can be used, for example, for structural purposes in building and construction; treated and untreated poles for transmission lines; hardwood for furniture manufacturing; and industrial wood for packaging, pallets, and cable drums.
Current producers in Manicaland employ internationally recognised forest practices and this has resulted in some of the highest quality sustainably managed plantations in Africa.
Manicaland-grown timber and poles have a ready market in Botswana, South Africa and Zambia. Buyers in these markets, particularly Botswana, already prefer Zimbabwe’s products compared to competing ones from other countries.
Other emerging markets for Manicaland timber include Mozambique and the Dem.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s CEO