The country’s horticulture exports declined 10 percent in the four months to April this year, latest statistics from national trade promotion and development body, ZimTrade show, as the sector slowly recovers from the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The value of exports dropped to about US$13,1 million from US$14,6 million during the same period last year, ZimTrade chief executive Allan Majuru said.
Major contributors were macadamia, citrus, leguminous vegetables, and fresh flowers.
“The sector has performed at high and low (levels) over the past few years, but overall projections indicate the potential for export growth,” said Mr Majuru.
“Between January and December 2020, the sector was one of the sectors hit hard by the coronavirus, recording a 13,5 percent decline during that year compared to the previous year.”
The sector however picked up in 2021, recording a 6,8 percent growth between January and December during the year compared to the previous year, Majuru said, with exports growing from US$59,5 million recorded in 2020 to US$63,6 million.
Zimbabwe’s horticulture sector is among the top five contributors to the gross domestic product (GDP), behind tobacco, maize and cotton, with huge potential to contribute to the overall strong growth of Zimbabwe’s exports.
The southern Africa country has a diverse horticultural sector and most of the producers are small scale farmers.
Majuru said the growing global market for horticulture, in the form of fruits, nuts and vegetables, presented opportunities for Zimbabwean sector players to grow their exports.
“As Zimbabwe intensifies efforts to revive the economy, the agricultural sector is a low hanging fruit with potential to earn the much-needed foreign currency through export of quality horticultural products,” said Majuru.
“With regards to market penetration, Zimbabwe has a reputation for being a source of good quality horticultural products.”
“In fact, there is a general appreciation in countries like the Netherlands where buyers say Zimbabwean products such as blueberries taste better compared to those from other countries.”
Majuru said horticulture exporters in Zimbabwe were facing capacity challenges in accessing the European Union market, thus limiting their ability to realise full export growth opportunities.
“To address this challenge, ZimTrade is developing export clusters across the country where the target is also to integrate smallholder farmers into export business.
“By doing this, the country will increase the number of producers, which in turn will boost production. In the previous years, other horticulture farmers have also not been able to fully participate in exports due to market access requirements being imposed by the EU.
“This has resulted in some farmers giving up on exports, closing and others downsizing,” said Majuru.
He said ZimTrade was increasing engagements between Zimbabwean farmers and buyers in Europe and the United Kingdom, where focus was on market requirements.
ZimTrade has so far facilitated for sector players to take part in two global exhibitions, the Fruit Logistica that took place in Germany, and MacFrut Fair in Italy.
The participants engaged buyers who expressed willingness to source from Zimbabwe.