Huge export potential for nyimo/indlubu

Nyimo/indlubu, also known as Bambara beans/nuts has always been part of Zimbabwe’s delicacy for generations.

It is a good source of protein, easy to prepare, and usually consumed as breakfast or lunch by millions of people across the country.

Further to this, Bambara beans are not complicated to grow and can perform well in many soils, making it possible to grow across natural rainfall regions, dry areas.

This is a product that most communities can grow with easy, and they understand most product process required to boost production.

What is exciting, however, is not only the treasured history Zimbabwe has with the product, but also the potential to earn millions on the export markets as the demand for the product is anticipated to grow around the world.  

Considering the current drive by the Second Republic to promote the cultivation of indigenous, and drought-tolerant crops that can perform well in harsh conditions, increased production of export-oriented Bambara beans will unlock export access for rural communities, which in turn will improve the contribution of the agricultural sector to national exports.

Apart from meeting global demand, Bambara beans can provide sustainable incomes for rural communities, particularly those who have not recorded promising maize harvests due to increase weather variability.

Further to this, Bambara beans can provide solutions towards improving the nation’s food and nutrition security, as well as generating income for rural communities through improved exports.

To improve income generation for rural communities, ZimTrade – the national trade development and promotion organization – is working with Welthungerhilfe and Empretec to improve competitiveness and export potential in inclusive value chains that are usually referred to as “pro-poor” value chains.

The Strengthening Competitiveness and Potential for Export for Inclusive Value Chains in Zimbabwe (SCOPE4IVC) 2020-2023 project is targeting Bambara, marula, and chilli products.

Here, ZimTrade and its partners will improve capacities of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) so that they meet requirements for exporting Bambara nuts, marula, and chilli to European Union and other markets.

The project contributes to the key result area of export product diversification covered under the National Export Strategy, launched by President Mnangagwa in 2019.

The product

Bambara bean also known as vigna subterranean is a legume mainly grown by subsistence farmers in the sub-Saharan Africa.

It is said to be the third most important legume in semi-arid Africa after peanuts and cowpeas.

The nuts can be eaten fresh as snacks by boiling or roasting but can also be dried.

The dried bean can also be ground and sieved to produce flour which can be used for making bread, cakes or dumplings.

Bambara beans are related to cowpeas and can be used both for human and animal consumption.

The product is resistant to high temperatures, which makes the crop suitable for marginal soils where other leguminous crops cannot be grown.

By most accounts, the product is considered as a low-impact crop, making it one of the products with high potential for areas that receive below-normal rainfall.

Most Bambara beans varieties take 3-6 months to mature, depending on the climate.

The crop can be grown in sandy loam soils and is easier to harvest in well drained soils.

In Zimbabwe, the fast-growing Bambara bean is intercropped with maize and cowpeas or even planted as a sole crop.

Potential markets for Bambara beans  

The current world market for dried Bambara beans is still small, but with potential for growth.

According to Trade Map, the global import bill of the product was just US$1.7 million in 2020, up from US$1.23 million in 2019.

What this figure shows is that countries that are quick to increase exports right now will likely command the largest share when the market grows bigger.

Although Zimbabwe’s exports of the product are still low, the current market share indicates potential for the country to command a much bigger market.  

Currently, the major importing countries for the product are Saudi Arabia, South Africa, USA, Chile, Uganda, UK, and Netherlands.

From these markets, Zimbabwe already enjoys trading relations with most of them and has even easier access to South Africa, which is the second largest importer of Bambara beans in the world.

Europe is believed to offer a relatively stable market for Bambara beans and growers should pay attention to meeting the required standards and volumes considering the rising interest in exotic cuisines by European consumers.

There is high potential for Zimbabwean growers to target Italy, United Kingdom and Netherlands markets.

To export Bambara beans to Europe, it is always important for exporters to adhere to the strict rules and obligations on food safety.

The general food law that regulates food safety in the European Union also applies to dried beans.

Exporters must make sure that the beans are traceable and that systems like the HACCP are well in place.

For African markets such as South Africa, local exporters can ride on the African Continental Free Trade Area or regional trade agreements such as the SADC Trade Protocol to enjoy low tariffs.

Consumption in Asian countries are expected to increase hence creating more market alternatives and Zimbabwean farmers producers are also encouraged to consider tapping into those markets.

Consolidation will improve market access

In most cases, there are challenges that are associated with producing the crop at commercial level, making it ideal for smallholder farmers who are looking to be integrated into export business.

However, since the export business is a game of numbers, potential exporters will need to consider consolidation so that they meet minimum order requirements.

This way, farmers will ensure that the little they produce can find its ways to export markets and sustain demand over longer periods of time.

To achieve this, concerted efforts must be made to mainstream group cohesion and embarking on aggregation as a way that smallholder farmers and smallholder farmers can tap into lucrative export destinations. 

Consolidation and aggregation will increase their export volumes, reduce cost of freight, and improve the competitiveness of Zimbabwe-grown Bambara beans on export markets.

Currently, ZimTrade is implementing a Best Model Farm approach, working with selected exporting farms to on board smallholder farmers in production of high value crops such as flowers, peas, and fine beans.

A similar arrangement can be developed, focusing on smallholder famers of Bambara beans, which will unlock their access to export markets.

Lessons can also be drawn from the current national garlic project that is focusing on integrating rural communities into garlic export business.



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