Revisiting peas exports

Revisiting peas exports     

The potential for vegetables and fresh fruits to Zimbabwe’s export growth cannot be over-emphasized.

This is because the country enjoys favorable climatic conditions and good soils that makes it easy for production of high-end, quality, and tasty products that can compete well in export markets.

Already, President Mnangagwa’s Government has been placing much effort towards creating a robust agricultural sector that can contribute to higher foreign currency earnings, job creation, and improved livelihoods as the country gears achieving an upper-middle income economy by 2030.

But why focus on agriculture?       

Compared to other countries in the region, the agriculture sector, particularly horticulture sub-sector is one of the areas Zimbabwe enjoys competitive and comparative advantage and has sustainable economic development options in the long-term.

This underpins discussions on why the agriculture sector is a crucial cog to the development of Zimbabwe as it has sustainable economic development options in the long-term.

In terms of the low hanging fruits in the sector, the horticulture recovery and growth agenda, being implemented by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement notes that priority will be placed towards areas that stimulates export growth.

Here, the plan targets to grow exports of vegetables to around US$285 million, as well as increase hectares under vegetables to 4,000.

The recovery and growth agenda also seeks to integrate smallholder farmers and out growers into the export market through mentoring and identification of special horticulture development zones.

Thus, key to realizing full potential of the sector will be leveraging on specific crops that are easy to grow, and can also be produced by smallholder farmers, including young farmers and women.

This is where peas, as an export crop comes into play.

According to the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan, 1,333 hectares are earmarked for peas production, with potential to rake in US$77,44 million in export value in the short term.

Peas therefore provide export options for farmers that are looking to venture into export business.

Varieties of export-targeted peas and trends

Sugar snap and mangetout peas are the most common varieties grown in Zimbabwe and these are some of the highly sought-after varieties from developing countries in international markets such as Europe.

The mangetout, also known as the snow or sugar pea, is a flat-podded variety of pea that is eaten whole, hence the French name mangetout, which means ‘eat everything’.

Sugar Snap peas have thick pods that are eaten whole, and they are mainly used in salads and stir fry.

These can be served raw, lightly steamed, boiled, or stir-fried and are commonly used in restaurants and hotels across the world.

The growing global demand for peas is anchored on changing eating habits where people are increasingly moving towards vegetables and organic foods.

Both varieties are rich in good quality protein, which makes them the ideal choice of meat substitute for the vegetarian.

Food blogs, culinary professionals, and retail marketing are encouraging people to eat more exotic and healthier vegetables like sugar snaps and mangetout.

Convenience has also contributed to an increase in demand for peas, as European consumers, particularly in the north, spend less time cooking and convenience becomes increasingly important.

Fresh peas benefit from this because they are quick and simple to prepare.

To make fresh meals more appealing and convenient, fresh peas and pea pods are also premixed and used.

Sainsbury’s, for example, sells several packaged mixes of mangetout with baby corn and sugar snaps with asparagus and tender stem broccoli.

Fresh processing and packaging are critical requirements for capitalizing on the growing interest in convenience products.

To ensure customer satisfaction, buyers frequently request that pea pods be free of strings and, in some cases, trimmed (cutting off the ends).

Offering a broader range of small vegetables and packaging options can also be a unique selling point for exporters looking to capitalize on the convenience trend.

Export potential

The global import market for shelled or unshelled peas (HS Code 071021) has been on an upward trend, from around US$461 million in 2017, to around US$503 million in 2021, according to Trade Map.

The relatively high value of these peas, combined with a steady market, makes producing and exporting mangetout and snap peas a profitable business.

Last year, some of the importers of peas were United States America (US$46,5 million), Italy (US$43,1 million), Germany (US$38 million), China (US$30,4 million), Belgium (US$29,5 million), Algeria (US$27 million), and France (US$26,5).

At the same time, Trade Map notes exports of fresh or chilled peas (HS Code 070810) grew from around US$418 million in 2017 to US$485 million in 2021.

Top exporters in this category last year were USA, Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.

Looking at specific markets, United Kingdom and Netherlands are some of the potential markets for Zimbabwean peas, as other local fresh produce are already performing well.

The UK market is well-developed, directly supplied from the source, and expanding.

For several reasons, the United Kingdom will continue to be a valuable market for non-European suppliers

Netherlands on the other hand can provide a gateway to other European countries, as it is one of the largest re-exporters of fresh produce in the world.

Fresh peas require efficient logistics, which the Netherlands can provide, as well as several specialized trading companies.

The Netherlands’ fresh pea (re-)export is still growing, so the country’s trade position remains important for foreign exporters.

Mangetout and sugar snaps are not traditional vegetables in Germany, but the country’s large population and emphasis on health create opportunities for exporters who can supply fresh pesticide-free peas.

Dutch importers have good coverage in Germany, and German traders prefer to import from the Netherlands because it is the quickest way.

Demand for organic vegetables, other than peas also remains high in Germany.

In additions, fresh peas are a popular vegetable in French cuisine, although edible pea pods such as sugar snaps are still somewhat exotic.

The French market for exotic peas has a multichannel character and mangetout peas are more common in France than sugar snaps.

Most supermarkets offer mangetout peas while sugar snaps are more of a specialty.

This means the wholesale channel is also relevant for marketing fresh peas to specialized shops and culinary outlets.

Norway has a high per capita consumption rate and imports a significant amount from suppliers outside the European Union.

Sugar snap peas and mangetout peas are popular in Norway and other Scandinavian countries.

However, because Norwegian consumers can only rely on a very short season of locally grown sugar snaps in July and August, the country’s reliance on imports will remain.

In Belgium, the fresh pea industry consists of the processing of common garden peas as well as the trade of exotic pea pods.

Belgian trade is particularly well-connected with France, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia and local farmers can consider these countries as a gateway to the market.



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