Zimbabwean pineapple farmers can now sell their organically grown pineapples in European markets. The farmers hope this will bring prosperity to a region recently devastated by Cylone Idai. Photo credit: Tonderayi MukeredziHarare, Zimbabwe, January 4th (IPS) – In her wildest dreams, smallholder Sarudzai Sithole could never have imagined that her pineapple could one day run the product department of Europe’s best supermarkets.
Now the 34-year-old mother of five is part of a group of 45 farmers in the Rusitu Valley in Chipinge, a district in the Zimbabwean eastern province of Manicaland, who would be exporting almost 50 tons of their pineapples to the Netherlands from December 2021.
“This is the best experience I’ve heard in the fourteen years I’ve grown pineapples. I sold my pineapples to buyers from Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo on site during this time, but with a small profit.
“I’m going to sell two tons, and for the promised price of 70 cents, the exported crop will greatly improve my life and that of my family,” an excited Sithole told IPS.
She says growing pineapples enabled her to build a house, buy various household items, and send children to school. She is expanding her acreage in the hope that the proceeds from the exported crop will enable her to electrify the family home, along with other essential home improvement activities.
Sithole says they don’t use fertilizers or chemicals when growing the pineapple, just fertilizers.
According to Dudzai Ndiadzo, the administrator of the Rusitu Fruit Growers and Marketing Trust, the farmers dream of exporting their products to Europe came true in August (2021). Their pineapples received organic certification from Ecocert Organic Standard, a French quality control agency whose certification enables farmers to send their organic products to international markets. The 45 villagers belong to the trust.
Farmers in Chipinge and most of Zimbabwe’s major growing areas suffer heavy post-harvest losses as their produce often rots by the roadside as they struggle to secure markets or move their produce to markets.
Chipinge farmers set up Rusitu Fruit Growers and Marketing Trust to market their crops. It represents over 1,300 farmers.
The farmers fell victim to cyclone Idai. This tropical cyclone hit their home area of Chipinge and Chimanimani in 2019, killing more than 180 people, destroying 7,000 households and infrastructure, and leaving 4,000 people with unsafe food, but their pineapple harvest was not destroyed.
Ndiadzo said most of the farmers grew pineapples, but not on a commercial scale, because the pineapple market wasn’t that good.
“We are happy to export because the local pineapple market is weak. The money from the export market is better – it’s double or more what we would have got here, ”he told IPS.
Faced with the challenges of market access, Rusitu Fruit Growers and Marketing Trust hired the country’s export promotion organization, Zimtrade, to provide farmers with training and technical expertise in organically growing pineapples.
In 2017, farmers started working with Zimtrade to obtain organic certification and were supported in certification and export by organizations such as COLEACP, the Dutch Embassy in Zimbabwe and PUM and RVO International based in the Netherlands.
Zimtrade has a longstanding partnership with PUM where experts offer Zimbabwean exporters in various sectors technical interventions to improve their quality and production processes for export. By working with PUM, Zimtrade has established connections with food companies in the Netherlands that enable smallholders to export their crops.
Admire Jongwe, Zimtrades Manager for the Eastern Region, says organic certification is a critical milestone in reaching the lucrative organic fruit market, particularly in the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and other emerging markets such as the United Arab Emirates.
“Organic certification will enable farmers to get a premium of up to 30 percent on their products in most supermarkets in Europe. This will improve their yields and increase their livelihood by producing the pineapple, ”he told IPS.
According to Jongwe, the small-scale pineapple farmers with organic standards will have access to the global pineapple market, which according to the Trade Map has grown from $ 2.3 billion in 2011 to $ 2.5 billion in 2020.
Zimbabwe has an average annual trade value of $ 18 million for fruit and vegetable exports. Figures from Zimtrade show that Zimbabwe’s horticultural exports exceeded $ 30 million in tea, macadamia nuts, fresh flowers and legumes in the first half of 2021, largely contributing to sales.
The country used to be one of Africa’s largest horticultural exporters, but horticultural exports have plummeted over the years. Europe is currently the largest export market for the Zimbabwean horticultural sector, especially the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
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