The coronavirus pandemic is changing the world in ways never been imagined before.
First, following compulsory lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), companies are adapting to new technologies and allowing people to work from home, thus disrupting the traditional 8am-5pm work routine.
On the other hand, while there is still more to learn about the pandemic, the symptoms and prevention methods of the virus have inculcated a healthier and hygienic lifestyle among many.
Most consumers around the world are focusing on eating their way to a strong immune system.
This has resulted in many adapting to more healthy lifestyles and food choices which in turn is seeing an increase in demand for superfoods.
Already, the past few years has seen a growing demand of superfoods, which is expected to double or triple in the coming years, as most people consider switching towards healthier eating following the devastating physical and psychological impacts of COVID-19.
Super foods are described as plant-based foods which are considered nutritiously dense and ideal for boosting the immune system and low in calories.
Examples of superfoods include avocado, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and blueberries.
Across the world, retailers are experiencing hefty sales increases for superfoods and organic products and online retailers are reporting the highest sales growth.
Retailers in European countries are reporting an increase of superfood sales of up to 25 percent and 30 percent in the last month, indicating that there is a high chance that demand for superfoods will continue to be on the rise even after the pandemic.
So, what does this surging demand for superfoods mean, especially for Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwean farmers must quickly adapt and channel their activities so that they align with growing demand of products that are regarded as healthier.
This will ensure that they do not lose out when global consumption patterns shift, something that is already underway.
The growing demand for superfoods provides an opportunity for Zimbabwean producers to increase their global supply and earn the much-needed foreign currency.
What is important to increase production of superfoods is a coordinated approach by farmers and financiers to ensure that the country increases production and maximise space utilization.
The global perception of Zimbabwean commodities can be used to springboard more superfoods into the international market.
Zimbabwe is already known for its remarkable products (good quality and organic) with no exception to horticultural produce and this makes it easy to increase production earmarked for export market.
Already, most farming regions across the country have good soils and climate conditions are necessary for production of superfoods.
Production capacity that has been reached in previous years is an indication that local farmers have potential to produce more, if awarded much support from financing partners.
At its peak during the 1998-99 season, the horticulture sector exported over 45 000 metric tonnes (mt) of fruits and around 14 000mt of vegetables earning a total of US$143 million in all horticulture produces and contributing 4.5 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In recent years, the sector has been experiencing recovery with export values growing by 107.7 percent from US$54 million in 2011 to US$112.2 million in 2018.
This increase was backed by an upsurge in new export products such as blueberries, avocados, shelled macadamia nuts, seed potatoes, kale and seeds of cowpeas.
Additionally, the growth in exports of products such as mangetout & sugar snap peas, green tea, carrots, beetroot, dried mixed vegetables, chillies and peaches also contributed significantly to the increase in horticulture exports.
Given Zimbabwe’s favourable climatic conditions, there are ideal superfoods options for local farmers.
Some promising options, that are already performing well include avocados, beans, berries and citrus fruits but there is need to take into consideration certifications that are required to penetrate the market.
Avocado has become one of the top superfoods in the recent years and is one of the top imported fruits around the world.
The popularity of avocados is driven by its use in many dishes and can be consumed for breakfast, lunch, dinner and desert.
There are two main varieties of avocados produced and consumed across the world, which are Hass avocado and green-skinned avocados such as Fuerte, Bacon, Gwen, MacArthur, Pinkerton, Reed, and Zutano avocados.
Around 80 percent of avocados produced and consumed worldwide are Hass which also happens to be the main variety grown for exports in Zimbabwe.
Current Hass avocado production capacity cannot meet global demand as new Asian markets such as Japan and China have significantly increased consumption of the same.
The global value has doubled in the last 5 years, from around US$3.86 billion recorded in 2015 to around US$7.27 billion in 2019.
The current top importers for avocados in 2019 were United States of America (US$2,86 billion), Netherlands (US1,04 billion), France (US$520 million), Spain (US$347 million) and United Kingdom (US$343 million).
Regarding capacity to increase supply, indications are that Zimbabwean avocado exports will grow in the coming years.
According to Trade Map, Zimbabwe avocado exports in 2019 were US$14.55 million and major importers were Netherlands (US$7.29 million), France (US$3.12 million) and United Kingdom (US$2.34 million).
Demand for Zimbabwe-grown avocados will continue to surge as current demand is bigger than supply.
Currently, there are buyers from Hong-Kong who have expressed interest to buy locally produced avocados for distribution in Asia.
Local exporters can also sustain avocado export growth by targeting already performing markets for Zimbabwean horticultural produces.
For example, Netherlands is the largest importer of Zimbabwe’s horticultural produces and the existing trade relations can be used to increase exports of avocados to the country.
Citrus fruits, particularly lemons, have been widely touted as immune-boosting fruit for those who are looking at home remedies for COVID-19.
This is because citrus fruits are a major source of Vitamin C, which helps in the fight against colds.
To assist citrus farmers, Zimbabwe is in the process of establishing a citrus protocol with China, which is expected to ease and improve exports to the Asian country.
With a consumption population of over 1.4 billion, the Chinese market alone will have capacity to offtake all Zimbabwean produces.
Imports of citrus in China have been growing in the last years, with US$594 million recorded in 2019, up from US$267 million in 2015, according to Trade Map.
Other markets that local farmers can consider are Netherlands whose import bill of citrus fruits was US$1.21 billion in 2019.
The United Kingdom, whose total imports of citrus fruits in 2019 was around US$790 milion is also an ideal market for Zimbabwe-grown citrus.
Zimbabwean climatic conditions are ideal for producing quality berries that can compete well on the export market.
In fact, there is a general appreciation in countries like Netherlands where buyers say Zimbabwean fresh produce such as blueberries taste better compared to other countries.
This perception alone creates room for increased exports of berries to current top markets in 2019 who, according to Trade Map, are USA (US$3.89 billion), China (US$3.15 billion), Germany (US$1.41 billion) and Netherlands (US$1.27 billion).
Products of the leguminous vegetables family are a high source of protein and are considered better than animal-based protein.
With the current global push for reduced animal farming as one of the ways to reduce gas emissions, projections are that demand for produces such as peas and beans will grow in the coming years.
Currently, farmers in Zimbabwe are producing mange-tout and sugar-snap peas which are destined for the export market.
Mange tout are rich in good quality protein, which makes them the ideal choice of meat substitute for the vegetarian.
The peas are also a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and a good source of fibre.
To fully harness potential in leguminous vegetables, local exporters must ensure that their products can qualify as convenient foods, which are becoming more popular in European market.
Convenient foods are designed to optimise ease of consumption and shorten meal preparation time, are becoming popular among working class people, bachelors and teenage children.
Publish Date: Sunday 03 May 2020