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Zimbabwe’s Citrus Sector Gears Up for China Exports

June 18, 2023

On June 1, the General Administration of Customs of China released its list of Zimbabwean citrus orchards and packing houses authorized for exports to China. The list includes 11 orchards and six packing facilities. According to the CEO of Zimbabwe’s Horticultural Development Council, Linda Nielsen, citrus exports to China could commence as early as the end of June. “The season is starting within the next two weeks,” she said, adding that the size of the initial consignments would depend on the number of orders received from Chinese buyers.

In order to guarantee that the first shipment goes off without a hitch, the council is currently working with the farms and packing facilities that have been accredited by the GACC to ensure compliance with Chinese regulations.

On account of the landlocked nature of Zimbabwe, the GACC has also announced its conditions for Zimbabwean citrus shipments through third countries. Shipments will only be permitted to leave packing houses after pre-departure inspection, and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is required to take samples of 2% of each batch of fruit destined for China. If no phytosanitary issues are found within the first two years, the sampling rate can be lowered to 1%.

Cold treatment, which is a mandatory precaution to avoid pest transmission, can be applied while a shipment is in transit, including at ports in third countries, but it must be supervised by the ministry or one of its approved entities. Zimbabwe is reportedly considering shipping its initial batches of citrus fruit to China via the Port of Durban in South Africa, while also conducting trial shipments to markets in the Middle East and Far East via the Port of Beira in Mozambique. Given last year’s congestion at Durban, however, citrus shipments intended for China are likely to be shifted to Beira in the future. The validity period of the ministry’s pre-departure inspection is limited to 30 days, according to the GACC’s notice.

The recent announcements by the GACC come almost a year after Zimbabwe and China finalized the citrus export protocol and eight years after the process was initiated in 2015. At present, Zimbabwe has approximately 4,000 hectares of land dedicated to citrus farming, although this can be expected to increase in the future given the newly acquired access to the lucrative Chinese market. In 2022, Zimbabwe exported 57,283 metric tons of citrus to Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Zambia.

According to Nielsen, the Horticultural Development Council is now working with Zimbabwe’s Plant Quarantine Services Institute to secure China market access for blueberries, avocados and chiles.

Image: Unsplash

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