Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S trade development and promotion agency, ZimTrade says it is collaborating with communal farmers to ramp up baobab production for exports to the European Union as demand for organic foodstuff increases.
The demand for organic foods is said to have risen sharply with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic as consumers shift their tastes.
This has created a window of opportunity for producers to seek more markets and utilise the export window, ZimTrade chief executive officer, Mr Allan Majuru, has said.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the International Business Conference in Bulawayo on Wednesday, Mr Majuru said the advent of Covid-19 has created a huge export market for pineapples and baobab, in particular.
He said baobab powder has key nutritious components that consumers are now chasing after.
“We have started exporting organic pineapples to the Netherlands and this was premised on the need by our counterparts to focus on healthy foodstuffs,” he said.
“Covid-19 changed tastes of consumers and that subsequently also directed us to look at our value chains to say how best we can respond to the changes in the market,” he said in a discussion anchored on re-imagining value chain opportunities and challenges.
“On value retention, farmers were selling pineapples for 20 cents a kilogram but when they were certified organic the price shot to 70 cents.
“As much as we are exporting, we are changing livelihoods and retaining value in the communal areas and for us, it’s export promotion and changing our farmer’s way of life.”
Mr Majuru said ZimTrade was now also focusing on baobab exports after discovering that its powder component has six times more calcium than in milk, six times vitamin C than in oranges and more potassium than in bananas.
“That gives you the health benefits of getting into baobab production. Our communal farmers are best placed to do that,” he said.
He said at some stage, the country was the continent’s top exporter of agricultural commodities but the focus is on reclaiming that tag.
“The predominant focus was exporting to the European Union, but we have shifted focus on the Middle East. We have made UAE our number two export market destination,” said Mr Majuru.
“Our fresh produce at the Dubai Expo was well received and now we are bringing in buyers from Dubai because people are skeptical about whether the product is from Zimbabwe.
“So, the buyers will visit to also invest in production and control the supply chain.”
ZimTrade participated in the Zimbabwe-Dubai Business Forum, which strengthened bilateral trade relations between the country and the United Arab Emirates.
With the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan under implementation to stimulate exports, indications are that local farmers will boost production, making it easy to meet the requirements of buyers and growing demand.
There is a growing demand for organic foods among consumers, as more people are becoming health conscious and looking for products that are high in nutrients and low in calories.
Consumers are becoming more aware of foods containing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and are switching to organic foods, which is driving the market growth of organic farming that is devoid of the chemicals used in crops.