THE potential of vegetables to contribute to Zimbabwe’s exports cannot be over-emphasised.
Vegetables, just like all other horticultural products, offer quick wins for Zimbabwean growers and exporters, given favourable climatic conditions that the country is endowed with.
One of the most viable vegetables for local producers to consider is peas, whose increasing demand on the global market can guarantee success for those planning to increase exports.
There are three main categories of peas, and these are: mangetout (snow) peas, sugar snap and garden (shelling) peas.
The main types grown in Zimbabwe are mangetout peas and sugar snap, which have a proven success record in most provinces of the country such as Manicaland, the Midlands, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West.
The mangetout is a flat-podded variety of pea, eaten whole (hence the French name mangetout, which means eat everything).
The peas within the pods are small, crisp and sweet, and can be served raw or lightly steamed, boiled or stir-fried.
Mangetout are rich in good quality protein, which makes them the ideal choice of meat substitute for the vegetarian.
Sugar snap peas have thick pods that are eaten whole, and are mainly used in salads and stir fry.
The growing global demand for peas is anchored on changing eating habits where people are increasingly moving towards vegetables and organic foods.
Peas, which are a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and a good source of fibre, have had a fair share of increase in exports in the past few years.
According to Trade Map, world imports of fresh chilled peas stood at US$452 million in 2020, up from US$447 million in 2019, and US$392 million in 2016.
This growing import bill offers opportunities for local sector players to exploit the global market and increase Zimbabwe’s share of the world market.
Figures from Trade Map suggest that Zimbabwe’s pea exports have been on an increase, with US$976 000 recorded in 2016, rising to US$5,5 million in 2020.
To capitalise on the momentum, there is a need for local players to increase exports to traditional markets, whilst at the same time targeting new markets that have a high import bill of peas.
To improve access to new markets, ZimTrade — the national trade development and promotion organisation — is facilitating for improved linkages between local farmers and buyers from the region and beyond.
For example, farmers participated at a trade mission to Dubai earlier this year, where buyers indicated a willingness to source from Zimbabwe.
During Outward Buyer Missions to Lubumbashi and Kinshasa this year, farmers also learnt of huge potential for Zimbabwe-grown horticultural produce in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ZimTrade is also organising for farmers to participate at Fruit Logistica early next year, where local exporters will interact with some of the world’s largest buyers. The trade promotion body also engaged in business-to-business meetings to identify market entry avenues for Zimbabwean grown peas into the global market.
The participation of Zimbabwean farmers at such international trade exhibitions will go a long way in improving the presence of their products in foreign markets, particularly to the largest importing markets.
Major world importers of mangetout peas in 2020 that Zimbabwe should consider include the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Canada, France and Germany.
Local producers can leverage on the existing trade relations between Zimbabwe and Europe to increase exports, as the trading bloc is already importing peas from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was one of the top exporters of peas to the United Kingdom in 2018, and with Brexit there is a need to further consolidate the market.
For the rest of the European Union, local producers can leverage on the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA), as there is rising demand for vegan, gluten-free and natural foods.
iEPA allows qualifying products from member countries to enter European markets duty free and quota free, if they meet the required standards and certification.
The Asia and America continents offer further markets for Zimbabwean peas, with indications for increased demand for Zimbabwe’s peas in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Japan.
To easily penetrate the global market, farmers must comply with food safety standards and requirements.
This will allow them to clinch a niche market for peas on the highly competitive world market.
Product certification will also make it easy for locally produced products to sell fast.
Organic production will also allow local players to increase their share of the global market.
Further to this, value-addition processes will ensure that local players get more revenue from their exports as value-added and processed foods earn at least double the price of raw commodities on the export market.
To improve the competitiveness of local sector players, ZimTrade is working with experts from PUM, a Netherlands based organisation, to assist local farmers in producing the correct variety that perform on the global market.
ZimTrade is also assisting local players on issues to do with packaging, as this will allow locally produced products to stand out in a pool of imported products on the foreign market.
Allan Majuru is ZimTrade chief executive