The Sunday Mail
TRADE promotion body ZimTrade has implored local youth to consider adopting dried fruit export as it is a viable option for start-ups.
The move seeks to improve the contribution of value-added agro-products to national economy and foreign currency generation.
According to ZimTrade, increased production of export-quality dried fruits can contribute to the attainment of targets set under the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan launched last year.
Dried fruits, in general, refer to fruits whose original water content would have been removed through natural processes such as sun-drying or through the use of specialised dehydrators.
According to Trade Map, the global import value of dried products grew to US$2,17 billion in 2019 from US$656 million in 2001, while Africa’s import bill of dried fruits grew to US$46 million in 2019 from US$29 million in 2011.
Current global trends indicate that organic foods with high nutritional values should be consumed to attain a healthy lifestyle and longer life.
In international markets such as the European Union, Asia, and Middle East, demand has been driven by the factor of dried fruits being a good source of micronutrients.
As a result, dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, apples, peaches, pears, papaws (papayas), and tamarinds attract good value in the international food industry.
As it stands, the Netherlands is currently the largest importer of Zimbabwean horticultural produce and local start-ups can utilize existing channels to introduce more dried fruits to the country.
Apart from these international markets, there are also opportunities to explore African markets, riding on the opening of markets by the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Top importers in Africa last year were Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco and Namibia.
Germany at US$199 million was the top importer of dried fruits last year followed by the United States — US$192 million, the United Kingdom (US$182 million), China (US$174 million), France (US$101 million), and Netherlands (US$76 million).
The figure grows if other products like dried bananas, dates, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes, citrus fruits and grapes are put into consideration.
In this regard, local start-ups are being urged to take advantage of the agreements signed between Zimbabwe–European Union (EU), and Zimbabwe–United Kingdom (UK), to export under favourable conditions, which makes locally produced dried fruits to sell at competitive prices.
Local youths are therefore encouraged to embrace the production of fruits that can be dried. According to Zimtrade, once production improves, local companies can leverage export promotion services offered by ZimTrade in order to increase the visibility of Zimbabwe-produced dried fruits in regional and international markets.
“One of the businesses that provide easy options for young people is dried fruits and this is an area that can act as a springboard for start-ups to penetrate international markets. Youth-led start-ups can therefore utilise fruits in times of the glut to minimise post-harvest losses, preserve value and ensure they derive optimal value,” said ZimTrade in its April issue.
The business is considered viable given the looming food shortages around the world, the focus is on start-ups to offer sustainable solutions to hunger-stricken communities on the continent and even locally.
Projections are that Zimbabwe will have more youth-led start-ups in the coming few years, anchored by their position as innovative entrepreneurs.
Zimbabwe amply possesses resources required to produce dried fruits as it has abundant fruit trees, and a lot is discarded during peak season when there is excess.
Areas such as Manicaland grow bananas in abundance and some smallholder farmers have reported that they throw away produce when they flood markets. Zimbabwe already enjoys favourable trading conditions with top importers of dried products which makes it easy for local start-ups to export duty-free or quota-free.
Over the past few years, the demand for dried fruits has gone up as more people are becoming health conscious and looking for products that are high in nutrients and low in calories. Dried products usually have a longer shelf life and utilising sea freight to export dried fruits to international markets can help reduce cost and at the same time improve the competitiveness of these products.