Zimbabwe’s blueberry production is expected to double to 7 000 tonnes in 2023, up from 3 500 tonnes in 2022–the strongest growth in the local horticulture sector, the latest quarterly report by the Horticultural Development Council (HDC) show.
While there were no significant new blueberry plantings in 2023 as growers recovered from a tough 2022, additional 100ha is anticipated in 2024. And if market access to China and India are secured, an expansion to 1 500ha will result in increased production of 30 000 tonnes, but this will depend on an improvement in the policy environment, said HDC which represents horticultural farmers.
“Growth remains limited due to a lack of long-term financing, a result of the absence of policy certainty,” said HDC. “Where finance is available, interest rates are too high and tenure is too short. Progress in designating the sector Special Economic Zone is slow and requires urgent attention. The 25 percent export retention reduces profitability.
“Unless policy issues are resolved, this promising industry risks stagnation and Zimbabwe will miss out on a strong opportunity to position itself as a leader on the global stage,” said HDC in a quarterly report to September.
It said the expansion of the blueberry sector will depend on securing market access to China and India. These two countries are the world’s largest consumers of blueberries, and they offer significant growth potential for Zimbabwean blueberry exports.
“Progress in completing the protocols for market access to China and India is slow, and Government intervention is required,” said HDC.
Avocado export volumes were 4,610 tonnes, slightly lower than the same period in 2022. This is an off-year for most growers due to biannual bearing in their orchards.
The anticipated maturity of younger orchards will sustain production, which is expected to reach 7 000 tonnes over the next two years.
Production costs increased over the period due to an increase in the minimum wage from US$65 in June 2022 to US$83 and rising fuel prices. Prices were under pressure due to significant volumes from Peru in the European Union market from April to July 2023.
About 84 150 tonnes of citrus were recorded during the season. This comprised;
11 150 tonnes of lemons, grapefruit 3 000 tonnes, oranges 70 000 tonnes. A total of 400 tonnes of mandarins were sold on the local market, with exports anticipated in 2024.
An increase in exports is expected in 2024, as more orchards come into production. The industry is testing the most cost-effective logistics chain into China, a process that includes the shipping of test containers to China,” according to HDC.
Coffee production outlook for 2023 is 500 tonnes. Deliveries are lower than in the 2021/2022 season, as farmers are selling some of their crops to informal buyers due to a lack of inputs and late payments, which has compromised the quality of the produce.
Tea output closed the season lower at 14 500 tonnes and may drop further due to the anticipated El Niño conditions. The fall in output was due to a reduction in planted area, as farmers switched to alternative crops. The tea export market in the region is under pressure, with prices dropping in Malawi.
Macadamia yields for the season are estimated at 8 000 tonnes (T) and are expected to decrease as a result of reduced inputs and a dry season. Macadamia prices in the just-ended season were at their lowest in 20 years, but demand is expected to firm for the coming season.