By Dumisani Nyoni
BEITBRIDGE – CITRUS producers in the southerly part of Zimbabwe have implored policymakers and authorities to fast track the implementation of measures that foster export growth, including removing non-tariff trade barriers.
Farmers in Beitbridge revealed this during a visit conducted by ZimTrade, the country’s export promotion body recently, to understand their needs especially in terms of export promotion.
Five farms were visited where the harvesting season was in full swing, giving the ZimTrade team an opportunity to observe the grading and packing processes for both the local and export markets.
Key findings included the need for policy support for citrus producers, especially in terms of negotiating for trade protocols with key target markets to allow Zimbabwean producers to compete with increased production from countries such as Morocco, Egypt, and some South American countries.
Research on global citrus exports indicates that citrus growers worldwide rely heavily on government to government agreements that allow producers to push higher volumes at lower tariffs, especially in high potential markets such as China and India.
Delays at the borders was also identified as affecting citrus exports.
Stressing this point, one farmer highlighted that they pay on average R8 000 more in transportation than farmers just across the river in Limpopo Province, South Africa.
“This is due to transport companies passing on the cost of delays to the producers, the farmers said.
Addressing this issue at the 2018 ZimTrade Annual Exporters’ Conference in October, ZimTrade chief executive officer, Allan Majuru, implored policymakers and authorities to fast track the implementation of measures that foster export growth, including removing such non-tariff trade barriers.
ZimTrade continues to engage the horticulture sector with a view to achieving significant export growth by increasing quality and throughput in the short, medium and long-term.
According to statistics from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s citrus exports in 2017 amounted to US$52,3 million mostly destined for European markets, the Middle East, Canada and Hong Kong. This is against a global citrus import bill of more than US$15 billion annually.
The Beitbridge area offers ideal climatic conditions for citrus, and growers are looking to increase production from the approximately 2 300 hectares currently under citrus, especially orange orchards and to a lesser extent grapefruit and lemons. Some producers have already started working on three-year production growth plans that will results in an increase in citrus production.
Zimbabwe, under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, seeks to attain middle-income economy by 2030 and one of the vehicles that will help achieve that is to remove all trade bottlenecks.
According to the World Bank, a middle-income economy is one with a gross national income ranging between $1 005 and $12 235 per capita.
Currently, the World Bank classifies Zimbabwe as a low-income economy.