Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Economic Reporter
ZimTrade, Zimbabwe’s trade development and promotion agency, says it is working with community farmers to increase baobab production for export to the European Union as demand for organic food increases.
Demand for organic food is said to have surged with the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic as consumers change their tastes.
This has created an opportunity for producers to seek more markets and take advantage of the export window, said Allan Majuru, ZimTrade’s chief executive officer.
During a panel discussion at the International Business Conference in Bulawayo on Wednesday, Mr Majuru said the emergence of Covid-19 has created a huge export market for pineapples and baobab in particular.
He said baobab powder has important nutritive components that consumers are now chasing.
“We started exporting organic pineapples to the Netherlands based on our colleagues’ need to focus on healthy food,” he said.
“Covid-19 has changed consumer tastes and that has subsequently also prompted us to look at our value chains to say how best to respond to the changes in the market,” he said in a discussion , which dealt with the reshaping of opportunities and challenges in the value chain .
“On conservation, farmers were selling pineapples for 20 cents a kilo, but when they became organic the price shot up to 70 cents.
“As much as we export, we are changing the livelihoods and value retention in the municipal areas and for us it is export promotion and changing the way of life of our farmers.”
Mr. Majuru said ZimTrade is now also focusing on baobab exports after discovering that its powder component has six times more calcium than milk, six times more vitamin C than oranges and more potassium than bananas.
“That gives you the health benefits of getting into baobab production. Our community farmers are best suited for this,” he said.
He said the country was at one point the continent’s largest exporter of agricultural commodities, but the focus is on reclaiming that label.
“The prevailing focus was on exporting to the European Union, but we have shifted focus to the Middle East. We have made the UAE our second largest export market destination,” said Mr. Majuru.
“Our fresh produce at Dubai Expo has been well received and now we are attracting buyers from Dubai because people are skeptical about the product coming from Zimbabwe.
“So buyers will come to visit to also invest in production and control the supply chain.”
ZimTrade participated in the Zimbabwe-Dubai Business Forum which strengthened bilateral trade ties between the country and the United Arab Emirates.
With the horticultural recovery and growth plan in place to stimulate exports, signs suggest that local farmers will ramp up production, making it easy to meet buyer demands and growing demand.
Demand for organic foods is growing among consumers as more and more people become health conscious and look for nutritious and low-calorie products.
Consumers are increasingly paying attention to foods containing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and switching to organic foods, driving the market growth of organic farming, which eliminates the chemicals used in crops.