A sweet, juicy deal for our farmers

The Chronicle

The local citrus growing sector got the shot it needed when the Government struck an agreement with China for the export of fruits to the Asian giant.

This had been in the works since 2015 when Zimbabwe approached China seeking a market for Shashi Citrus smallholder farmers’ produce.

After Zimbabwe’s approach, China requested for pest risk assessment information before the exports could begin.

Zimbabwe put forward the required information.

China then sent a team of experts in 2018 to conduct a pre-shipment inspection of the citrus fields to check for the pests that are associated with citrus in Zimbabwe and also to apprise themselves of pack shed standards.

The experts identified False Codling Moth (FCM) and and Natal fruit flies as pests of concern.

Discussions continued until a citrus phytosanitary protocol was signed by the two countries after agreeing on measures to take care of the concerns of plant biosecurity.

The protocol requires that a cold chain system for the export of fresh citrus fruits to China be put in place like any other country including the European Union (EU) for the management of the identified pests of concern.

Varieties of fresh citrus that local producers will export to China include sweet orange, mandarin orange, grapefruit, lemon and sour orange.

According to Trade Map, Zimbabwe export markets in 2019 included The Netherlands (63 percent), Portugal (6 percent), France (4 percent), Germany (4 percent), UK (3 percent), Saudi Arabia (3 percent), Spain (3 percent) and others (13 percent).

In that year, the country exported 49 358 tonnes of predominantly valencia oranges, navel oranges, lemons, soft citrus and grapefruits.

The country used to farm 10 000hectares under citrus but due to a variety of factors including sanctions and the fact that we have new farmers in the sector, the land size has dropped to around 3 000ha.

The Chinese embassy in Harare tweeted Wednesday: “The sweet & juicy Zimbabwean citrus will join the Chinese market as the citrus export protocol have just been signed.

We are implementing President Xi’s pledge that China will open a green channel for the export of African agricultural products.

It’ll benefit more Zimbabwean farmers.”

Acting chief director for Department of Research and Specialist Services Dr Dumisani Kutywayo said:
“The General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China signed first and we followed suit.

We are now educating stakeholders on the requirements to export fresh fruits to China.”

This is a juicy deal that local citrus producers must take advantage of because of a number of factors.

Firstly, the pact permits exportation of some fruit grades that traditional markets – Europe, Asia and South Africa – didn’t buy saying they were inferior.

So instead of throwing away the “B” and “C” grade fruits or selling them cheaply, farmers would be able to sell them to China at more meaningful prices.

Secondly, the agreement has a provision for Chinese experts to come over to offer technical assistance to local growers for them to more effectively export to that country.

This means that farmers would get much more than just money from China.

They would also learn new skills from the experts, skills that would enable them to improve the quality of their produce and possibly expand their land under the fruits.

The third sweet part of the deal is that instead of farmers having to build a cold chain from their farms as is ordinarily the case with citrus exports, the Chinese have agreed to have the cold chain being built from the exit port.

This means that our growers would spend less in building cold storage facilities for their fruits ahead of shipment to China.

Indeed, this is a sweet, juicy deal that was structured in a way that will allow most of our farmers, including emerging ones who are still not well-resourced to meet the conditions of exporting to traditional markets, to be able to supply the potentially lucrative Chinese market.

We, thus expect them to take full advantage of the Chinese window, one that was created with them in mind.

However, our farmers must not be too relaxed in their pursuit for top quality production.

Yes, we laud China for making it easier for them to export, but China would appreciate if local growers demonstrate commitment to want to learn more to be able to produce a higher quality product.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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