Zimbabwean farmers should venture into farming berries and take advantage of the existing market opportunities for the product, an industry official has said.
A senior expert consultant, Kees Van’t Klooster, who recently visited the country under a long-standing memorandum of understanding between ZimTrade and Netherlands’ PUM which provides expert advice on a voluntary basis to small and medium enterprises, said berries had a huge potential to diversify exports.
Klooster met with various growers and farmers in Marondera, Shamva and Chegutu.
“In terms of value, blueberries have a higher market value and have a longer shelf life among most berries. Raspberries are also very popular in Europe, but have a shorter shelf life,” Klooster said while discussing options with one of the farmers.
“There is, however, need for collaboration between the farms already producing and those wishing to venture into berries as the market is too large for local farmers to be competing,” he added.
He said he was impressed by the quality of berries being produced in the country.
The European market for blueberries has been expanding on the backdrop of growing demand in ‘superfoods’ which have a higher nutrient content. The Netherlands is the third largest importer of fresh produce in the world.
In 2017, Zimbabwe exported berries worth about US$370 000 and the figure grew to US$4 million in 2018, with major berry exports including blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Blueberries, which have a longer shelf life compared to raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries, can easily be transported via sea, reducing freight costs by around 60%, thereby allowing for competitive pricing by producers.