Scope to boost granadilla, passion fruit exports

26 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Scope to boost  granadilla, passion fruit exports Passion fruit

The Sunday Mail

Trade Focus

Allan Majuru

IN December 2021, President Mnangagwa launched the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan to stimulate export growth.

The plan also seeks to enhance foreign currency earnings and create employment opportunities by tapping into lucrative markets for local products.

Under the Second Republic, the Government is making concerted efforts to boost horticultural production and integrate smallholder farmers, as well as rural communities, into the mainstream horticulture business.

This approach ensures that these ventures are profitable for everyone involved.

To facilitate inclusion of smallholder farmers into the profitable horticulture sector, the Government has rolled out various programmes aimed at unlocking the potential value in crops that these communities have traditionally grown.

Farmers are being encouraged to organise themselves into clusters, adopt good agricultural practices and approach farming as a formal business venture.

The focus is on crops that communities are already familiar with, ensuring ease of production and high returns. Among them are the granadilla and passion fruit. They are considered a low-hanging fruit.

The two are closely related; they only have slight differences.

Both are tropical fruits from the genus passiflora, which is known for distinctive flavours and health benefits.

The plants, common in many rural areas where they have traditionally been used as hedge or wind barriers, offer an accessible entry point for smallholder farmers, young people and rural communities into the export business.

With a long history of cultivation in rural areas, the granadilla is well-suited for integration into smallholder farming practices.

It can be grown for consumption or juice extraction, and is recognised as a highly nutritious tropical superfood due to its rich antioxidant content and other health benefits.

This makes the fruit attractive in a market increasingly driven by health-conscious consumers.

Small-scale farmers prefer the production and export of granadilla due to high returns and readily available markets, which have seen growing demand over the past few years.

The demand is fuelled by the fruit’s diverse applications, including its use in fruit beverages, smoothies and other food manufacturing processes.

Moreover, the rising global demand for superfoods, spurred by consumers seeking stronger immune systems in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, means local producers who venture into passion fruit or granadilla farming are well-positioned to access international markets.

However, this requires meeting key standards and statutory requirements.

Despite the ready demand for passion fruit in most international markets, competition among producers is intensifying.

Farmers who secure their market share now are likely to maintain sustainable access in the future.

Thus, there is no better time for local farmers to start production and tap into growing demand for these high-value crops. By embracing the cultivation of granadilla, Zimbabwe’s smallholder farmers and young agricultural entrepreneurs can not only enhance their own economic well-being but also significantly contribute to the nation’s export growth, ensuring a prosperous future for the country’s agriculture sector.

Key markets

According to Data Bridge Market Research, the granadilla/passion fruit market is poised for significant growth. Projections indicate a compound annual growth rate of 4,7 percent from 2021 to 2028.

This robust expansion is largely attributed to the rising awareness of benefits associated with a healthy eating lifestyle.

As more consumers become health-conscious, demand for nutrient-rich and natural food products continues to grow, positioning passion fruit as a favoured choice.

A major driver of this market growth is surging demand for natural ingredients across various industries.

Consumers are increasingly opting for foods and beverages that are free from synthetic additives and preservatives.

This trend has significantly boosted the popularity of passion fruit, known for its natural flavour and health benefits, thereby propelling market expansion during the forecast period.

Additionally, the well-documented nutritional profile of granadilla and passion fruit is contributing to their growing demand.

Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the fruits offer numerous health benefits, including boosting the immune system and enhancing skin health.

These established health benefits are expected to further fuel consumer interest and drive market growth until at least 2028.

As consumers continue to prioritise health and wellness, demand for antioxidant-rich foods like granadilla and passion fruit is anticipated to rise.

Currently, potential markets for Zimbabwe-grown passion fruit and granadilla are Europe, African countries, China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

In Europe, local farmers have potential markets in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The country is already exporting huge quantities of horticultural products, such as mange tout and sugar snap peas, fine beans and flowers, to these markets, which makes it easy for local producers to export more passion fruit if they ride on existing channels.

Regional markets such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and Angola are also potential markets for locally produced passion fruit or its value-added products.

The fruit

Passion fruit or granadilla vines grow rapidly and have a high yield.

These fast-growing, shallow-rooted perennial vines can reach heights of six metres or more, depending on the supporting structure.

With proper care, individual plants can be harvested for three years or more.

Two common varieties — the purple passion fruit and the yellow granadilla — dominate the market.

Among these, the purple passion fruit has become the most cultivated variety in Zimbabwe due to its adaptability and superior flavour.

This variety thrives in most soil types across the country and produces fruits with an average diameter of five centimetres.

Its superior and aromatic flavour makes it highly sought-after in export markets, where it is used both as fresh fruit and in juice extraction.

Granadilla excels in midland and lowland areas. It also yields larger fruits than the purple passion fruit.

Despite its high acidity, which makes it ideal for juice extraction, granadilla is also valued for its resilience.

It serves as a robust rootstock for purple passion fruit, being tolerant to diseases such as phytophthora root rot, nematodes, brown spot and fusarium wilt.

In terms of cultivation, a single hectare can accommodate around 1 600 passion fruit plants with 2m x 3m spacing.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations estimates a slightly lower density of approximately 1 111 seedlings per hectare with 3m x 3m spacing.

Although the crop requires significant attention during the nursing and transplanting stages, it is relatively easier to grow compared to more demanding crops like blueberries and flowers.

Passion fruit and granadilla varieties perform well in deep, well-drained loamy soils.

Zimbabwe’s favourable soils and climate conditions present an excellent opportunity for local farmers to engage in organic farming, thereby earning premium prices in the domestic market.

FAO recommends use of compost as fertiliser for these crops.

Expected yields are impressive, with farmers recording 12 tonnes-18 tonnes per hectare in the first year, 20 tonnes-25 tonnes per hectare in the second year and 10 tonnes-12 tonnes per hectare in the third year.

With proper plant management and good agricultural practices, farmers have the potential to surpass these yield targets.

From the date of transplanting, most passion fruit varieties begin bearing fruit within seven to eight months, with harvesting commencing between 12 and 13 months after transplanting.

Given these promising timelines and returns, passion fruit and granadilla cultivation is emerging as a strategic and profitable choice for Zimbabwean farmers.

Allan Majuru is the chief executive officer of ZimTrade.

 

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