Citrus sector confident of achieving 20 000ha by 2030
Agriculture Specialist Writer
STAKEHOLDERS in the citrus sector are optimistic of reaching a hectarage of 20 000 by 2030 if Government can avail incentives and patient finance to motivate production that is currently on a growth rate of approximately 450 hectares per annum.
Speaking at the second edition of the horticulture investment forum held in Harare under the theme ‘Opportunities in the field, policy and all the way to the bank,’ Citrus Growers Association of Zimbabwe (CGAZ) president Mr Pete Breitenstein recently said the sector had potential to grow and enable the country to achieve a US$1 billion horticulture industry by 2030.
“Currently, citrus orchards are planted on 4 193 hectares, 2 600 of which are trees that are under three years. At the current rate of growth of about 450 hectares per year, a potential area of 8 000 to 10 000 hectares is likely by 2030 but this figure can even grow to 20 000 by the same time frame if producers get incentives and adequate finance support,” the CGAZ president said.
He said the granting of secure prescribed asset status for biological assets (orchards and plantations) to attract patient capital from pension funds with no more than seven to eight percent interest per year as well as equity option for pension funds/investors would boost investment.
The citrus sector has lemons, oranges, grapefruit and soft citrus (such as clementines, nadorcott and tango).
The success of the sector hinges on tight bio-security enforcement measures to control diseases such as Asia greening (ACP), Tisteza virus as well as phytosanitary pests such as false codling moth (FCM), black spot (BS) and California citrus pest (CA).
A template has already been supplied to tighten regulations for import control and surveillance of nurseries to ensure there is no dead period as well as the importing of foreign diseases and pests, he added.
Among the policies that have a strong bearing on the success of the sector are the need for a secure land tenure for citrus orchards (99-year leases) as well as tax, import duty incentives such as the granting of the special economic zone (SEZ) status for the horticulture sector, Mr Breitenstein said.
He highlighted the need for continued logistical support for the upgrade of road networks to speed up transit times and avoidance of damage to fruit in transit.
“Transit times through borders is improving with the Beira route currently experiencing a reduction in the cycle with the possibility of using Walvis Bay in Namibia firming by the day.
“There is need for improvement in the cold store facilities in central Harare for northern growers and Beira port to comply with China market cold sterilisation requirements,” he added.
The HDC 2023 quarterly seasonal update for June said the country successfully exported 15 containers of lemons to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from the Beira Port under three different vessels with the first two averaging 27 days’ transit time to destination, while the third vessel took only 21 days.
“This transit time is higher than the usual average for that destination due to the current low export season out of Beira but will revert back to normal transit time of 16 days. We feel there is potential for a lot more volume to be exported out of Beira,” said the report.
Zimbabwe and China last year signed a citrus trade protocol that was initiated in 2015 for the export of oranges for smallholder growers under the Shashi irrigation scheme.
The fresh citrus products to be exported to China from Zimbabwe include sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), lemon (Citrus limon and aurantifolia) and sour orange (Citrus aurantium). The General Administration of Customs of China also released a list of registered Zimbabwean orchards and pack houses for fresh citrus exports to China.
The opening of the Chinese market has given the country the option of using the short Mozambican port of Beira if cold sterilisation conditions are met and significant volumes are produced.
Current citrus exports to China would go via the port of Durban as cold sterilisation standards at the Beira Port are not in conformity with the Zimbabwe-China citrus trade protocol.