Dumisani Nsingo, Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE is working on scaling up production in its horticulture sector as the demand for citrus fruits across the world soars.
Director in the Department of Research and Specialist Services in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Dr Godfrey Chikwenhere said efforts are being made to revive and increase production in the horticulture sector especially the growing of citrus fruits as the country seeks to fortify exports.
He said seeking initiatives to improve the country’s horticulture sector was part of the Department’s target-driven economic projects with a 100-day turnaround period including pest eradication.
“We want to produce certain targets-for now we are looking at (ways of eradicating) fall armyworm, which is a pest which came last year. We also have another target we are looking at on plant health as well, which is horticulture. The horticulture one is a big project, it involves quite a number of people…we have got a very important aspect on trade-export,” said Dr Chikwenhere.
He said there was a growing demand for fruits in Europe and Asian markets.
“There are so many countries that want to get citrus (fruits) such as mangoes among other fruits from Zimbabwe including avocado. So we want to look into it, how best we can improve our horticulture sector so that we can meet the demand of people across the world, for instance Europeans and the Chinese want our citrus,” said Dr Chikwenhere.
With more benefits being discovered, from both the production and consumption of citrus fruits – the global market growth for supply and demand of these products is limitless for the foreseeable future.
European countries demand continues to increase, especially in the case of lemons.
The use of this sour fruit is becoming common in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK, which demand a quality, but environmentally-conscious product.
Chinese’s national market demand for citrus last year increased to 4.6 million tonnes, which is four percent higher than before. Grapefruits have become the most imported variety of citrus, their imports amounted to 40 000 tonnes. In 2016, South Africa was the main supplier, 67 percent of all imported citrus arrived in China from there.
The fast-growing demand in China for quality fruits has seen Egypt rapidly increasing its citrus exports to the Asian market in the past years, which has led many Egyptian citrus farms to prosper.
Now Egypt, famous for producing sweet juicy oranges, has become the third largest exporter of citrus to China after South Africa and the United States.
Presenting the 2018 National Budget last year Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the Government has set sights on offering support to selected horticultural producers as part of its efforts to capacitate them.
Fruits and vegetables in Zimbabwe are classified under the horticulture sector, which encompasses cut flowers, fruit and vegetables (both processed and fresh). The sector has been the fastest growing industry with an average growth of 32 percent over the last ten years. It is largely represented by the Horticultural Promotion Council.
The industry includes such players as the input suppliers, farmers (large and small scale commercial farmers), fresh fruit and vegetable wholesalers, exporters and processors.
The main producers of fresh fruit and vegetables for export are commercial farmers (large scale and small scale). The communal farmers grow mainly for the local market, although recently there has been a shift towards exports, mainly to the region. These farmers also participate in export trade by supplying the larger companies with their produce on an out grower basis.-@DNsingo