Zim in line to reap big from China citrus market
Michael Tome–Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S citrus producers stand to benefit from the massive Chinese market following the conclusion of the Citrus Export Agreement (CEA) with Asia’s largest economy, says the Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC).
Signed in 2015, the agreement was largely designed to secure a ready export market for citrus produce for smallholder growers under the Shashi Irrigation Scheme in Bindura.
The agreement smoothens the movement of first-order shipments from registered companies that have met stipulated compliance requirements.
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.
South Africa, Egypt, Australia, the United States of America (USA), and Spain with regard to the Chinese citrus market.
In 2022, South Africa topped the fresh and dried oranges suppliers list to the Chinese market delivering products worth US$117,499 followed by Egypt at US$36,181, Australia (US$35,564), USA (US$30,137) while Spain supplied US$7,942.
Zimbabwe is primed to benefit immensely from the Chinese citrus fruit market if the opportunity is taken up seriously, particularly after a dip in China’s citrus imports given the unprecedented rise in freight and labor costs attributable to Covid-19 pandemic.
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 entered into a Citrus Export Agreement (“CEA”), which opens new opportunities to boost agricultural trade.
“The CEA facilitates citrus exporters’ access to a bigger market and market diversification opportunity reducing dependence on local markets.
“With stability coming into play post-pandemic and sudden growth in demand, this creates growth opportunities for Zimbabwean agricultural citrus farmers,” said the Competition and Tariff Commission in the second quarter communique.
Over the past three years, China’s orange production has also been growing with yield growing from 7,2 million tonnes in 2019 to 7,5 million tonnes in 2021, while consumption increased to 7,3 million tonnes.
However, the period also recorded a strong reduction in imports from 4,3 million tonnes to 2,9 million tonnes.
According to Trade Map, China imported citrus fruits worth US$594 million in 2019 alone.
“This indicates that China has great national demand for oranges that can be fulfilled by importation.”
As such, CEA has potential to grow local production of citrus fruits to meet rising demand in the Chinese market.
Furthermore, on June 2023, the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC), announced a list of registered Zimbabwean orchards and pack houses that were given green light to export fresh or dried oranges to China.
According to CTC, fresh citrus produce to be exported include sweet orange (citrus sinensis), mandarin orange (citrus reticulata), grapefruit (citrus paradisi), lemon (citrus limon and citrus aurantifolia), and sour orange (citrus aurantium).
Citrus can be processed into various value-added products from diverse components of the tree including leaves, flowers, peels, and fruits.
According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Zimbabwe’s cumulative export earnings closed the year at US$7, 42 billion which is a 16, 5 percent growth from US$6, 37 billion realised during the same period in 2021.
However, the mining sector continues to dominate the total export earnings accounting for 75, 8 percent of the total export earnings in 2022. Although agriculture exports retreated 14, 5 percent, manufacturing and horticulture exports grew by 15, 5, and 5 percent respectively.