Zimbabwe blueberry growers seek access to Chinese market

On a farm in Marondera, about 80 kilometers east of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, blueberries ripen in May. Workers carefully pick the plump berries from the bushes, making sure not to damage the delicate fruit.

Edwin Moyo, a blueberry grower, 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 tasty Zimbabwean berries.

Currently, Moyo produces more than 100 tons of blueberries per year in a 10-hectare project that is being expanded. "Our goal is to expand to about 200 hectares, all of which are destined for the Chinese market," Moyo told Xinhua. “China is a growing market and it will be worth exporting directly from the farm to China.”

Workers harvesting blueberries at a farm in Marondera, Zimbabwe, on May 13, 2024. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)

Currently, Moyo is consolidating its harvest, selling to clients in South Africa and Europe. However, it is already witnessing the growth of the Chinese market and is eager to capitalize on it.

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

Zimbabwe, a major blueberry producer in southern Africa, has traditionally exported its berries to the European Union and Britain. Now it is looking to access the Chinese market. The country has a competitive advantage in blueberry production as it harvests earlier than other competitors, according to Clarence Mwale, chief executive officer (CEO) of Fair-Mark, a local company that helps exporters meet international sourcing requirements. .

Last year, Zimbabwe sent its first shipment of citrus to China, marking a significant step in the expansion of its agricultural exports.

"We have a huge advantage by coming into the season two months earlier than our competitors," Mwale told Xinhua. "We are positioning ourselves to maximize these two months in which we will be the only suppliers to the southern hemisphere."

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

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

Allan Majuru, chief executive of ZimTrade, Zimbabwe's trade promotion agency, said the country is stepping up efforts to diversify its agricultural exports to China.

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

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