Mat South farmers tipped to venture into pecan nut production

By Dumisani Nyoni

PECAN nut trees (Carya illinoinensis) are native to North America
and Mexico, and thrive in areas characterized by long dry summers and short
cold winters.

With its suitable climate, ZimTrade—the country’s export
promotion body which has been pushing farmers to venture into such farming
activities—says Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland South province has great potential for
pecan nut production and some plantations have been established there in recent
years.

One of the most popular and high-value edible nuts worldwide,
pecans come in various sizes such as mammoth, extra-large, large, medium, small
and midget.

They are also available in several forms such as whole
pecans, pecan halves, pieces, granules and meals. Their rich buttery flavor
makes them suitable for both savory and sweet dishes. Raw pecans can be salted
or sweetened and make for a delicious snack.

They can be sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and
ice creams. They are also widely used in confectionery as an addition to
biscuits, sweets and cakes.

According to Trade Map, in 2017 the global market for pecan
nuts was worth US$2.17 billion, with the United States of America being the
largest consumer taking 40% of this. Pecan is also popular in China with a
market share of 17% followed by Hong Kong and Vietnam each with a market share
of 11%.

USA is the also the largest supplier of pecan nuts,
contributing 48% to the world’s exports, followed by China with a market share of
17%, as well as South Africa which produces 7% of global exports.

For countries looking to start exporting pecan, ZimTrade said
Germany and The Netherlands offer potential as they are increasing their
imports of the nut, with demand having risen from 7% to 9% growth annually between
2013 and 2017.

Pecan nuts are a high value crop, which according to Trade
Map, attracted an average world price of US$6 453 per ton in 2017, with Germany
and The Netherlands paying an average of US$14 084/ton and US$12 243/ton
respectively.

“Given the very suitable climate and large land area
available for production, it is possible for Zimbabwe to grow its output and one
day compete with South Africa, which is currently the third largest exporter of
the nut in the world,” ZimTrade said.

“However, to gain access, producers need to ensure that they
meet the stringent EU buyer requirements. Pecan nuts headed for Europe must be
certified safe (IFS, BRC). They must also adhere to the EU labelling and packaging
standards,” the body said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has indicated that Zimbabwe
would become a middle-income economy by 2030, anchored on agriculture and other
productive sectors of the economy.

As such, if farmers in Matabeleland South would venture into pecan
nut production for exports, then vision 2030 would be attained with ease.