The country has potential to improve on macadamia nuts production and export to global markets although there are some inherent challenges that pose a threat to the sector in the short to mid-term, analysts have said.
Challenges ranging from inflationary pressures, exchange rate volatility, limited foreign currency availability on the official market pose serious threats to not only the macadamia production but the entire economy.
Bad weather conditions add another strain in the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy.
Already, weather experts have issued warnings of an El-Nino weather phenomenon to affect Zimbabwe and the region during the 2023/24 farming season.
This will also affect the macadamia production. Market watchers have also warned of the potential strain the drought will pose on the agriculture sector and across its value chains, although the sector provides significant export potential.
However, inherent challenges persist. “While the region’s climate provides an advantage, the industry’s high dependence on rainfall, unpredictable weather conditions and less advanced production techniques hinder its potential,” says IH Securities.
Nestled in the eastern part of the country, primarily in Chipinge, the macadamia industry is capitalising on the region’s cool climate and adequate rainfall— crucial conditions for the crop.
Zimbabwe’s budding macadamia nut industry, which had its inception in the year 2000, is gradually making its mark on the global stage, though facing its own set of challenges.
In the 2022/23 season, the cultivation area for the nut increased by a slight 0,9 percent reaching 9,804 hectares.
With growing costs estimated at US$2,300 per hectare, Zimbabwe’s macadamia yield stands at an average of 7,2 tonnes per hectare.
According to IH Securities, this figure is yet to match the global average, suggesting room for growth and efficiency enhancement.
Despite accounting for just 1,2 percent of the world’s macadamia production, Zimbabwe has garnered annual export revenues of US$4,2 million. Notably leading the production charge are listed firms, Ariston and Tanganda, with outputs of 1,106 tonnes and 1,076 tonnes respectively in the past season.
One of the significant areas for improvement remains the export of unprocessed in-shell macadamias.
Currently, these are exported at a rate of US$2,65 per kilogramme, a stark contrast to the US$4,85 per kilogramme for processed nuts.
This disparity underscores a missed opportunity for higher revenue and value addition within the country.
Market watchers believe that the industry is bound to face growing pains in the short term. However, the potential remains significant, especially if the nation can transition towards processing nuts locally and mitigating production challenges.
For now, the world watches as Zimbabwe carves its niche in the global macadamia market. Overall, the country’s horticulture sector is expected to see significant growth in the short to medium term, enhancing its contribution to export earnings.
Major crops like tea, soya beans and blueberries have garnered interest on the global markets creating scope for the expansion of hectares for the fruits.