Zimbabwean blueberry producers seek access to Chinese market

Workers harvest blueberries at a farm in Marondera, Zimbabwe, on May 13, 2024. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)
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HARARE, — At a farm in Marondera, about 80 kilometers east of the Zimbabwean capital Harare, blueberries are ripening in May. Workers carefully pick the plump berries from the shrubs, ensuring not to damage the delicate fruit.

Edwin Moyo, a blueberry farmer, aims to tap directly into the lucrative Chinese market once a trade protocol between China and Zimbabwe is approved. For him, the vast Chinese market represents a sweet spot for Zimbabwe’s flavorful berries.

Currently, Moyo produces over 100 tonnes of blueberries annually from a 10-hectare project that is under expansion. “We are targeting to expand to about 200 hectares, with all of it destined for the Chinese market,” Moyo told Xinhua. “China is a growing market, and it will be worthwhile to export directly from the farm to China.”

At present, Moyo consolidates his harvest, selling to customers in South Africa and Europe. However, he is already witnessing the growth of the Chinese market and is keen to capitalize on it.

Moyo, who is also chairman of Nhimbe Fresh Exports, a premier exporter of horticultural produce, said local farmers and industry stakeholders are considering increasing investment in blueberry production. “The Chinese market is the best market, and there is significant interest. Of course, certain accreditation standards must be met in China,” he said.

Zimbabwe, a major blueberry producer in southern Africa, has traditionally exported its berries to the European Union and Britain. Now, it seeks to gain access to the Chinese market. The country has a competitive advantage in producing blueberries, harvesting earlier than other competitors, according to Clarence Mwale, chief executive officer (CEO) of Fair-Mark, a local company supporting exporters in meeting international sourcing requirements.

Last year, Zimbabwe shipped its first consignment of citrus fruit to China, marking a significant step in expanding its agricultural exports.

“We have a massive advantage by coming into season two months ahead of our competitors,” Mwale told Xinhua. “We are positioning ourselves to maximize these two months when we are the sole suppliers from the Southern Hemisphere.”

The Chinese market offers a lucrative opportunity for Zimbabwean producers, Mwale noted. “We are working with the Zimbabwean government to understand the Chinese market’s requirements and help local farmers build the capacity and systems needed to access it.”

“We have been studying the Chinese market’s needs and are currently working on a trade protocol between the governments. Once approved, we will focus on meeting the supermarkets’ requirements and other market demands in China,” Mwale added.

Allan Majuru, CEO of ZimTrade, Zimbabwe’s trade promotion agency, said the country is intensifying efforts to diversify its agricultural exports to China.

“We aim to incorporate blueberries, pecan nuts, chilies and sesame, among other products, to grow and diversify our export basket to China,” Majuru said.