The Sunday Mail
The potential for vegetables to contribute to Zimbabwe’s exports cannot be overemphasised.
Vegetables, just like all other horticultural produce, offer quick wins for local growers and exporters, given favourable climatic conditions that the country is endowed with.
One of the most viable vegetables for local producers to consider is peas, whose increasing demand on the global market can guarantee success for those planning to shore up exports.
There are three main categories of peas — mangetout (snow) peas, sugar snap, and garden (shelling) peas.
The main types grown in Zimbabwe are mangetout peas and sugar snap, which have a proven success record in most provinces of the country such as Manicaland, Midlands, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West.
The mangetout is a flat-podded variety of pea, eaten whole (hence the French name mangetout, which means eat everything). The peas within the pods are small, crisp and sweet, and can be served raw or lightly steamed, boiled or stir-fried.
Mangetout are rich in good quality protein, which makes them the ideal choice of meat substitute for the vegetarian.
Sugar snap peas have thick pods that are eaten whole and they are mainly used in salads and stir-fry.
The growing global demand for peas, which are a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and a good source of fibre, is anchored on changing eating habits, where people are increasingly moving towards vegetables and organic foods.
Pea exports have been progressively rising in the past few years.
According to Trade Map, global pea imports stood at US$459 million in 2018, up from US$407 million in 2017 and US$391 million in 2016.
This trend offers opportunities for local sector players to increase Zimbabwe’s share of the world market.
Figures from Trade Map suggest that Zimbabwe’s pea exports have been growing, from US$100 000 recorded in 2009 to US$2,2 million in 2017 and US$7,8 million in 2018. To capitalise on the momentum, there is need for local players to increase exports to traditional markets, whilst at the same time targeting the biggest consumers for the product.
To improve access to new markets, ZimTrade — the national trade development and promotion organisation — facilitated for local farmers to participate at the just-ended Fruit Logistica which took place in Berlin, German, from November 5-7 last year.
Local farmers had an opportunity to interact with some of the world’s largest buyers and engaged in business-to-business meetings to identify market-entry avenues for Zimbabwean-grown peas into the global market.
The participation of Zimbabwean farmers at international trade exhibitions will go a long way in improving the presence of their products in foreign markets.
Major global importers of mangetout peas in 2018 that Zimbabwean pea producers and exports should consider include Netherlands (US$70 million), United Kingdom (US$64 million), Canada (US$59 million) and France (US$19 million).
Local producers can leverage on the existing trade relations between Zimbabwe and Europe to increase exports as the trading bloc is already importing peas from Zimbabwe. Major export destinations of Zimbabwean peas in 2018 were the Netherlands (US$1,8 million), United Kingdom (US$1,6 million), France (US$200 000), Ireland (US$100 000) and South Africa (US$100 000).
Zimbabwe was one of the top exporters of peas to the United Kingdom in 2018 and with the impending Brexit, there is need to further consolidate the market by ensuring that an agreement that will replace the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) in United Kingdom has been ratified.
This agreement will allow Zimbabwean products such peas to continue to be exported to United Kingdom both duty-free and quota-free.
For the rest of the European Union, local producers can leverage on the iEPA as there is rising demand for vegan, gluten-free and natural foods.
iEPA allows qualifying products from member countries to enter European markets duty-free and quota-free if they meet the required standards and certification.
Asia and America also offer market opportunities for Zimbabwe peas.
There is scope for further demand in countries such as United Arab Emirates and Japan. To easily penetrate the global market, farmers must comply with food safety standards and requirements.
This will allow them to clinch a niche market for peas on the highly competitive world market. Product certification will also make it easy for locally produced products to sell fast.
There are efforts being spearheaded by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe to develop ZimGap standard in horticulture.
The ZimGap standard will be benchmarked with the GlobalGap and modelled along similar initiatives that have proven successful in African countries such as Kenya. Organic production will also allow local players to increase their share of the global market.
Further to this, value addition processes will ensure local players get more revenue from their exports as value-added and processed foods earn at least double the price of raw commodities on the export market.
To improve the competitiveness of local sector players, ZimTrade is working with experts from PUM, a Netherlands-based organisation, to assist local farmers in producing the correct variety that performs on the global market.
ZimTrade is also assisting local players on issues to do with packaging, as this will allow locally produced products to stand out in a pool of imported products on the foreign market.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s chief executive officer.