ZimTrade calls for increased citrus production

HARARE - Zimbabwe export promotion body (ZimTrade) says local farmers should boost citrus production to meet increased demand from China.

This was after the China Industrial International Group Zimbabwe (CIIGZ), which supports local business to access China’s $23 trillion economy, managed to get orders amounting to 45 000 tonnes of Zimbabwean oranges annually.

ZimTrade regional manager Similo Nkala who was part of the Zimbabwe delegation that visited China in December last year said the market value of 45 000 tonnes is in the region of $18 million — which presents an opportunity for local growers to increase their production.

“The 45 000-tonne order is more than what Zimbabwe’s citrus producers have managed to export for all citrus fruit combined, in any year previously. Part of our mission was to visit citrus farms, seedling producers and processing centres to learn best practice in the citrus value chain,” he said. 

Nkala noted that the Agriculture ministry and ZimTrade will share relevant information with players in the industry to assist in boosting local citrus production, whose exports peaked at 45 000 tonnes in 2001, but declined to about 32 000 tonnes in 2015, according to the Citrus Export Growers Association.

Zimbabwe’s citrus production was significantly affected by the land reform programme in 2000, when farms were invaded resulting in loss of citrus trees.

According to Trade Map, China spent $242 million importing citrus in 2016, a 45 percent increase from 2012.

South Africa and Australia are the main Southern Hemisphere suppliers “in season” when China’s own producers and other Northern Hemisphere suppliers are out of season from July to November.

South African shipments increased 43 percent year-on-year to 163 512 tonnes, while Australia saw even greater gains, sending 75 642 tonnes, up 70 percent.

Peru has also made strong inroads in the China market, lifting over 300 percent to 7 000 tonnes with shipments of mostly mandarins in July and August.

The growth in demand for Southern Hemisphere citrus adds to the overall increase in China’s citrus imports that have grown by 400 per cent since 2009 to reach some
460 000 tonnes.

In 2009, South Africa supplied 5 percent of imports while the US accounted for 85 percent of the then 85 000 tonnes imported. Fast forward to 2017 and the mix of suppliers has changed significantly.

South Africa, Australia and other Southern Hemisphere suppliers now account for 54 percent of China’s citrus imports while Egypt has become the leading Northern Hemisphere supplier with 22 percent market share, followed by the US with 16 percent. Spain has also gained market share, taking four percent during the Northern Hemisphere season from January to June.

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