The introduction of direct flights between Zimbabwe and Qatar, celebrated through the inaugural flight by Qatar Airways into Harare recently, is expected to unlock export opportunities of local products into the Middle-Eastern country.
As Zimbabwe seeks to diversify its export markets, envisioned in the National Export Strategy – launched by President Mnangagwa in 2019 – Qatar presents a promising market for locally produced products and services.
True testimony to the successes recorded under President Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is Open for Business agenda, the introduction of direct flights between Harare and Doha will make it easy for local exporters to connect with buyers as well as make it faster to land products in the market.
As movement of persons is a crucial enabler of increased businesses, Zimbabwean seller will now find it easy and cheaper to connect with potential buyers in Qatar and this will go a long way in improving buyer’s confidence in local products.
Considering the position of Qatar, as an airline hub, local exporters will also find it easy to connect with the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which are important market for Zimbabwean products like horticultural produces.
Where previously Zimbabwean exporters were faced with hefty costs of flying goods through connecting multiple flights, there is now an opportunity to reduce cost and time.
What is important now is for local exporters to understand the import structure in Qatar and requirements for landing products into the market.
Potential export products to Qatar
Qatar is classified as a high-income country and has one of the world’s highest per capita income country, indicating a high-spending power for the population.
The economy of the country is largely dependent on oils and gas, which has created room for large imports of most products across all sectors.
According to Trade Map, Qatar imported products worth around US$25.8 billion in 2020 and major supplying countries were United States of America, China, United Kingdom, Germany, India, Italy, and Turkey.
Of the top imported products in Qatar, Zimbabwean exporters have an opportunity to supply an array of products in sectors such as horticulture, household and furniture products, meat, essential oils, and pharmaceuticals.
Supply of fruits and nuts is one of the low hanging for local farmers, who can tap into the US$308 million import value recorded last year.
Here, local farmers can ride on Zimbabwe’s reputation as the source of quality products of better taste compared to competition.
Top import products in this line last year– that are already grown in abundance in Zimbabwe – include pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes, dates, and figs (US$57 million); citrus fruits (US$54 million); berries (US$41 million); bananas (40 million); apples, pears, and quince (US$31 million); and watermelons and papayas (US$24 million).
Apart from fruit and nuts, there is a viable market for edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers whose total import figure in 2020 was US$239 million in 2020, according to Trade Map.
Some of the top imported vegetables include onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and other alliaceous vegetables (US$49 million), tomatoes (US$25 million), dried legumes (US$21 million), and potatoes (US$19 million).
The local agricultural sector that is undergoing massive transformation has potential to produce most of the imported products in Qatar.
There is also a high demand for household furniture in Qatar, including beds, mattresses, lamps, and lighting fittings.
In 2020 alone, according to Trade Map, Qatar imported unspecified furniture products worth US$246.9 million.
During the same year, the market imported lambs and lighting fittings worth around US$155 million, and seats US$146 million.
Mattress support and medical furniture imports into the country were worth US$36 million and US$23 million respectively.
As Qatar is a high-income country, the market has a taste for high-end products.
Thus, local furniture producers will need to focus on unique and modern designs that will compete against competition.
Functional art in the form of furniture will also make it easy for local producers to secure a market in the sector.
Considering that furniture products are bulk in nature and will require ocean freight, local manufacturers must produce collapsible modular designs that can be easily assembled at the final market or by the end user at their home.
This way, producers will reduce the cost per unit in production and transportation and this will make Zimbabwe-produced furniture products competitive in the market.
Current top furniture exporting countries that local producers will compete with are China, Turkey, and Italy.
Further to this, essential oils and resinoids used in perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations are some products that can be easily transported by air worth pursuing for local small enterprises.
Top imported products in this line last year were make-up and beauty preparations (US$118 million), perfumes and toilet waters (US$108 million), preparations for use on the hair (US$52 million), and shaving preparations (US$34 million).
For Zimbabwean businesses, particularly smallholder farmers who dominate production of essential oils, increasing production of plant sources such as flowers and fruits, herbs, resins, and wood oils will make it easy to produce the required quantities to secure the lucrative market in Qatar.
In Zimbabwe, there is a growing trend of companies that are value adding wild plants to produce high-end products and there is potential for establishing oil extraction businesses that targets Qatar as a market for locally-produced essential oils.
In addition, there is a promising market for meat of sheep, goats, and fowls.
Last years, Qatar imported sheep and goat meat worth around US$198 million, and fowl meat worth around US$191 million.
Production and exportation of sheep and goat meat is one area that has not been explored by Zimbabwean farmers, yet it has great potential.
Some countries in the continent are already thriving from exporting sheep and goat meat.
For example, Sudan grew exports of live sheep and goat from US$381 million in 2016 to US$448 million in 2019.
Local producers who want to grow their goat and sheep meat exports will need to target the readily available demand in Qatar.
The local pharmaceutical sector players can also tap into the market in Qatar, whose import value was around US$728 million in 2020, up from US$576 million in 2016.
Top pharmaceutical products imported last year where medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses.
Whilst the introduction of a flight between Harare and Doha will improve business linkages, there is need for local exporters to identify areas that offer quick-wins for their businesses.
As part of this process and as a service to the exporting community, ZimTrade – the national trade development and promotion organisation – will be conducting a market survey for Qatar to identify opportunities that are there as well as how best companies can tap into these opportunities.
Local exporters will also need to play their part to ensure their products are visible in the market, particularly on digital platforms that have been developed to help facilitate linkages with buyers.
For example, ZimTrade launched an online platform to increase linkages between local producers and buyers across the world.
The platform called Shop@Zim is currently being marketed heavily across the world and will provide a sound footing for local producers who are targeting Middle-East as a market.
Potential exporters will also need to leverage on trade promotion events that are organised by ZimTrade.
At these events, Zimbabwean exporters will have a direct engagement with buyers and this has a high success rate in concluding deals.