1 500t citrus fruits exported to China
Precious Manomano-Herald Reporter
About 1 500 tonnes of fresh citrus have been exported to China this season and production is expected to increase as recently planted trees mature.
Although the Chinese market presents a huge opportunity for Zimbabwe’s citrus exports, the country faces stiff competition from other African markets, hence the need to invest more in enhancing quality and competitiveness of products to meet international standards.
Zimbabwe and China in 2022 signed a citrus protocol to give Zimbabwean companies access to export citrus to China, one of Zimbabwe’s top export destinations.
Speaking during a press conference on achievements and challenges faced in the 2023 season, Agricultural and Marketing Authority (AMA) chief executive Mr Clever Isaya said their organisation was working with certified orchards to capitalise on this new export corridor, adding that the first consignment of 1 500 tonnes had been shipped to China.
“The approval of a citrus trade protocol between Zimbabwe and China in 2022 created a lot of exciting opportunities for our farmers locally within the citrus value chain. As a country we have certified orchards already that are going to capitalise on this new export corridor. The work being done is now to capacity build farmers to grow for export,” he said.
“Under citrus there are a number of other varieties which we are now discussing with farmers to set out the conditions under which we can export more products to China which is a very strategic market for us.’’
Zimbabwe, which has a total of 4 000 hectares of land under citrus, has a favourable climate for the production of citrus.
China ranked as the third largest importer of Zimbabwean goods last year, according to the country’s trade promotion agency ZimTrade.
The Chinese market is the largest for citrus production in the world.
Recently, Horticulture Development Council (HDC) CEO Mrs Linda Nielsen indicated that lemon production is prevalent in Mashonaland with 300ha of the fruit while Beitbridge has 170ha that all feed into the national figure of 500ha.
“About 1 400 tonnes were exported in 2023 and 5 150 tonnes are projected for 2024. Grapefruit was being produced in Beitbridge region on around 170 hectares with 2 250 tonnes exported mainly to the European markets in 2023,” she said.
Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Professor Obert Jiri indicated that he will provide support to ensure that all the awaited citrus exports are achieved in line with engagements being done by the Second Republic that have led to the widening of market access to include China.
Zimbabwe’s fresh and dried citrus exports reached an eight-year high of US$33,8 million in 2022, from less than US$5 million in 2015, and tapping into the Chinese market provides an excellent opportunity to further stimulate the shipments.
In 2021, citrus fruit production in Zimbabwe was 138 264 tonnes.
Of that output, Zimbabwe exported 57 283 tonnes to the United Kingdom (UK), Netherlands, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong in Asia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Zambia.
Apart from their health benefits to human consumption, citrus products have another essential utility given their medicinal values such as in the production of insecticides, cosmetic and soap industries.
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s citrus exports have been growing at an annual rate of 2,89 percent since 2015, with the highest export value recorded in 2022.