Unpacking export opportunities in United Kingdom
Zimbabwe’s export development agenda seeks to grow the country’s exports by penetrating new markets, as well as unlocking access to markets that previously topped as destination centres for local products.
This is part of President Mnangagwa’s re-engagement drive, where the country is integrating into global supply chains, following years of isolation.
In line with the aspirations of Vision 2030, the Second Republic, through NDS1, has committed to accelerate engagement and re-engagement process aimed at reintegrating Zimbabwe into a favourable global position.
The target is to position Zimbabwean products at the centre of all lucrative markets, new and old.
For local companies, although new markets present lucrative opportunities, there are vast low hanging fruits in country’s that were previously major trading partners of Zimbabwe.
The United Kingdom (UK) is one such country.
In May this year, ZimTrade – the national trade development and promotion organisation – conducted a market survey to identify key export opportunities for Zimbabwean companies in the European country.
The findings, which will be unpacked during a market dissemination seminar, slated for 12 July, revealed that local companies have a shot to supply an array of products in sectors such as processed foods, agriculture and horticulture, and arts and crafts.
This column will this week discuss, in brief, the key export opportunities in United Kingdom for Zimbabwean products.
Understanding UK as a market
The UK is considered to be the third most populated country in Europe after Russia, and Germany and is part of the leading economies in its region.
The country’s GDP in 2020 was estimated at US$2.7 trillion and is a highly competitive and lucrative market which is open to the world for trade.
UK’s economy is undergoing a historic realignment as the decision to leave the EU required the country to re-establish itself as an independent economy, while at the same time dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The transition following BREXIT has made the UK more self-reliant as the country is capitalising on the opportunities and promoting global interests.
The market imports across the world, with major products sourced in UK including fresh produce (flowers, vegetables, fruits), processed foods, arts and crafts (accessories and visual arts), clothing, equipment and accessories, vehicles, among others.
Its major import sources are currently China, Germany, Netherlands and United States of America.
Zimbabwean companies have a chance to be leading suppliers by focusing on areas the country enjoys competitive and comparative advantage.
This includes sectors such as horticulture, processed foods, arts and crafts, and services with a special focus on the labour market.
Considering the Eastern Southern Africa Economic Partnership Agreement (UK-ESA-EPA) currently in place, there is now a direct route to market for Zimbabwean products, as local exporters will continue to enjoy tariff and quota free access in the UK market.
In the past 20 years, Zimbabwe has been successfully exporting to the UK and this indicates that there is potential to regain the lost market share and increase exports to the market.
In 2021, according to ZIMSTATS, statistics indicate that exports from Zimbabwe to UK stood at US$14 million.
Over the past few years, there has been a COVID-19-induced drop in exports to United Kingdom, which have seen a steep decline of 86.2 percent decline from US$103 million recorded in 2017 to US$14 million in 2021.
This is largely because Zimbabwe’s exports to United Kingdom have been largely horticultural produce, such as flowers, whose demand dropped drastically following the lockdown measures announced in the country between 2020-2021.
However, with activities having resumed in the country, indications are that Zimbabwean exports will grow in the coming years as demand for local organic foods has increased, as consumers are looking for healthier products.
Zimbabwean companies have a presence in the United Kingdom and according to Trademap, Zimbabwe and the major contributors to the exports being fresh fruits and vegetables, tea and nuts, among others.
The products with greatest export potential from Zimbabwe to United Kingdom are peas, tea, green beans, chilli peppers, avocados, and passion fruit.
Demand has also been growing for blueberries, macadamia, citrus, flowers, sweet potatoes, and ground nuts.
Findings from the market survey indicate that the UK imports approximately 60 percent of horticultural produce and up to 90 percent of flowers mainly through Holland and Netherlands.
Quite a large number of Zimbabwean flowers are reaching the market through the Netherlands where they are processed and packaged.
In terms of market access, consistent supply has become increasingly of concern for fresh produce and there is need for Zimbabwean producers to tap into different seasons of supply by diversified their crops so as to create an all year-round supply.
In addition, major retailers such as Tesco, Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer require Global Gap Certification and exporters targeting the chain stores must ensure they comply.
However, some wholesalers are not as strict and might not require Global Gap certification and these may provide an entry point for Zimbabwean small producers who are still to get Global Gap Certification.
What is important to note is that importers who are strict in terms of compliance and standards tend to offer better prices than those who do not have.
Essential oils and other niche products
The consumer dynamics are shifting towards a healthier produce plus more organic, natural products.
Distributors are looking out for niche products and some products included crushed chillies, cleaned and packed garlic, fried onions and mixed coloured peppers.
There is a growing demand for super foods and carrier oils such as baobab powder, marula fruits, baobab oil, marula oil and other edible oils.
The UK’s processed foods sector is dominated by international brands and there are retail supermarkets in London and Birmingham that are already distributing Zimbabwean products.
These could be used as an entry point into the market for producers who do not have direct link to major wholesalers and retailers.
Low hanging fruits include confectioneries, cordials, long life milk, powdered milk, chips, tinned foods, processed meats, corn snacks, and dairy fruit blends.
Already, products such as Mazoe Orange Crush, Tanganda Tea and many others have carved a mark in the market and can be used as a springboard to launch new products to the UK.
Although there are successful products, it is important for Zimbabwean companies to be innovative and work on product quality and quantity improvement as well as market penetration strategies, which can result in tapping the UK market..
Arts and Crafts
The demand for arts and crafts from Africa is moderately high.
The key market is those that appreciate art and the cultures around the production of the products.
Products made in Africa have a rich and diverse culture that is embraced around the world, especially in UK and Europe.
Zimbabwe is already known as best producers of stone sculptures and there is room to grow exports into UK, including products such as baskets, mats, and sculptures made from recycled materials.
Leveraging on Zimbabwe’s diaspora in UK
The UK has a registered Zimbabwean diaspora community.
The diaspora community is well linked and networked to enable distribution of Zimbabwean products.
This presents a greater potential for creating linkages between local suppliers and buyers in the market.
Zimbabweans living in UK can take on various roles in the growth of exports to the market, which include leader/reputation builder, middleman, or enforcer of national brands.
Members of the diaspora can become marketing agencies for domestic companies, and this is a powerful conduit through which they can continuously help development of local businesses.
It is easy for Zimbabwe’s diaspora to assume these roles given the existing social ties with businesses and families back home, where they can become brand champions of the country and local products.