Michael Tome–Business Reporter
RAW milk processor, Dairibord, says local companies should integrate the many indigenous fruits in the production of various foods and beverages they make for the domestic and export markets to cut the import bill.
This comes as the company successfully launched its baobab fruit drink under the cascade brand in June this year.
Dairibord said the commercialisation of indigenous fruits was gaining momentum in Zimbabwe. Just last year the Government, through the National Biotechnology Authority, set up a mapfura/marula fruit factory at Rutenga growth point in Masvingo.
By last month villagers in the area are reported to have pocketed at least US$5 million from selling the fruit to the factory.
Mapfura/marula is used to produce juices, alcoholic beverages, edible oils, and stock feeds, which are currently being sold locally with plans to export already underway.
According to Dairibord, the baobab fruit was declared a superfood in the developed world in 2015 and some local companies were already exporting hundreds of tonnes of baobab pulp to America and Europe and it had happened for a while.
In 2020, the global market for baobab powder was estimated at US$6 billion and is projected to reach a revised value of US$8,5 billion by 2027.
Speaking at a recent Marketers Association of Zimbabwe event, Dairibord head of branding, corporate affairs, research and development, Ruvarashe Matambo indicated that dairy manufacturers import ingredients and flavoring worth US$10 million in a year.
She said the commercialisation of baobab was one such initiative that could help in curbing the importation of aforementioned raw materials.
“I can tell you that as dairy processors in a year we spend a lot of money on importation of raw materials mainly around ingredients and flavours, so we thought that it was good if we craft an idea that would speak to import substitution.
“We have become the biggest commercial customer of the baobab fruit pulp locally, this goes on to show how much we have not exploited most of our natural or indigenous resources,” she said.
Cascade brand is found in orange, tropical punch and mango flavours which the company spends foreign currency on importing but baobab come from natural baobab pulp sourced locally.
Matambo added that there was an opportunity for manufacturers to partner with local tertiary institutions to come up with locally grown solutions that help in saving the much-needed foreign currency that the country so desperately needs.
Also known by its scientific name “Adansonia digitata” baobab fruit is rich in ascorbic acid, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants.
The kernels of the fruit are a good source of energy, protein, fat, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
The fruit is readily available in the arid areas of Zimbabwe and Dairibord makes most of its procurement from Chirundu, Chipinge and Birchenough.
Commercialisation of indigenous fruits has the potential to create employment,eradicate poverty as it improves income streams for the rural folk especially women and the youth who are economically marginalized.
Higher and Tertiary Education Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Professor Amon Murwira is on record saying tertiary education should be instrumental in import substitution through innovation, especially in a brain-laden country like Zimbabwe.