The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE’S foreign trade policy is premised on leveraging on the country’s competitive and comparative advantage to grow exports.
Several efforts to establish, re-establish and strengthen Zimbabwe’s global footprint, through the economic diplomacy spearheaded by President Mnangagwa, are already underway.
More countries are beginning to warm up to Zimbabwe, while networks continue to be established to ensure sustainable foreign markets for local products.
However, to get best results in the shortest possible time, local exporters need to focus on unique products that have niche markets.
For example, global consumption patterns are shifting towards healthy eating, which is driving demand for superfoods.
This could be an area of interest for rural communities since superfoods often grow naturally across all provinces.
Superfoods are popular for their high nutrients and perceived ability to keep diseases at bay.
Some of the superfoods found in Zimbabwe with huge export potential are baobab fruit, sweet potatoes, whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal, and pecan nuts.
So, what does this mean, especially for Zimbabwe?
Well, this provides an opportunity for local producers to increase their global supply and earn the much-needed foreign currency.
Zimbabwe is already known for its remarkable products (good quality and organic), and this makes it easy to increase production for the export market.
Horticultural produce such as avocados, beans, berries, wild fruits and citrus fruits are already performing well.
Wild fruits, spices and herbs
Zimbabwe has some of the best wild fruits that can either be eaten raw or value added into more profitable products.
Wild fruits such as marula, baobab and masau have huge export potential.
Baobab fruit is already proving to be profitable in international markets such as Germany, where some local producers are selling baobab powder. Baobab, which is found in semi-dry areas across Zimbabwe, is rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
The demand for baobab fruit is largely being driven by the health-conscious market that is continuously looking for products of high nutritious value.
The product can be marketed as powder, oil, harvested pulp and supplements.
Baobab oil, extracted from the seeds, is commonly used in hair and skin products, while the powder is used predominantly in smoothies and porridge.
It has the highest antioxidant ratings.
Baobab fruit has seen its use being expanded into gin, beauty products and yoghurt.
It has been widely accepted in most European restaurants that, at times, make baobab butter for baobab popcorn or use it to marinate and panfry tilapia and prawns.
Demand for spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, peppermint, cinnamon, parsley and chilli powder is also presently growing.
And black pepper is the most traded spice.
However, different spices are popular in different regions and cultures.
For instance, turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli are more popular in India and South Asia, while cinnamon is more popular in Western countries.
Oregon is common in Mediterranean region whilst garlic is most common in Europe and Africa.
Avocado has become one of the top superfoods in recent years.
Its popularity is driven by its use in many dishes. It can be consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even as a dessert.
There are two main varieties of avocados produced and consumed across the world — the Hass avocado and green-skinned types such as Fuerte, Bacon, Gwen, MacArthur, Pinkerton, Reed and Zutano.
The current Hass avocado production capacity cannot meet global demand, as new Asian markets such as Japan and China have significantly increased consumption of the produce.
The global value has doubled in the last few years, from around US$3,77 billion recorded in 2015 to around US$8,27 billion in 2021.
Some of the top markets that local producers can target are the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom. Demand for Zimbabwe-grown avocados will continue to grow as current demand is bigger than supply.
Local exporters can also target already established markets for local products.
The Netherlands, for example, is the largest importer of Zimbabwe’s horticultural produce.
Existing trade relations can, therefore, be used to shore up shipments of avocados.
Citrus fruits, particularly lemons, have been widely touted as immune-boosting produce for those considering home remedies for Covid-19.
This is because they are a major source of Vitamin C, which helps fight colds.
Zimbabwe is in the process of establishing a citrus protocol with China, which is expected to boost exports to the Asian country.
With a population of over 1,4 billion, the Chinese market alone has the capacity to absorb the entire Zimbabwean produce.
Imports of citrus in China topped US$532 million in 2021, up from US$497 million in 2020, according to Trade Map.
Other markets that local farmers can consider are European countries, as well as regional markets such as Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
Local climatic conditions are ideal for producing quality berries that can compete well on the export market.
Buyers in markets such as the Netherlands opine that Zimbabwean fresh produce such as blueberries taste better compared to produce from other countries.
This perception alone creates room for increased exports of berries to current top markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Top Zimbabwe-grown berries with huge potential include blueberries and strawberries.
As the market for berries is growing rapidly, already established farmers need to collaborate with budding growers as the market is too large for them to compete.
Leguminous vegetables are a high source of protein. They are considered better than animal-based protein.
With the current global push for reduced animal farming as one of the ways to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, projections are that demand for produce such as peas and beans will grow in the coming years.
Currently, local farmers are producing mangetout and sugar snap peas that are destined for the export market.
To fully harness the potential in leguminous vegetables, local exporters must ensure their products qualify as convenient foods, which are becoming more popular in European markets.
Convenient foods are designed to optimise ease of consumption and shorten meal preparation time. They are becoming popular among working-class people, bachelors and teenagers.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s CEO