THE United Arab Emirates (UAE) represents a huge export market for horticultural produce from Zimbabwe and local firms should seize the opportunity to diversify exports currently dominated by diamonds and gems, national trade promotion body ZimTrade says.
Trade between Zimbabwe and UAE has been growing over the past five years, with local businesses exporting US$833 million in 2019, up from US$148 million in 2015, representing over 460 percent trade growth.
In 2019, The UAE was the second largest export market after South Africa taking up around 20 percent of total exports from Zimbabwe.
There is growing interest from the UAE to create new ties by exploiting mutually beneficial opportunities.
Figures from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), which were released during the UAE-Zim Food and Agribusiness Virtual Forum last week, also show that the value of bilateral trade with UAE has shot up from US$490 million in 2011 to nearly US$1 billion by 2019.
DCCI chairperson Majid Salif Al Ghurair told participants during the virtual forum — organised by DCCI, DEAT Capital (Zimbabwe) and DP World — that they intend to grow the trade and economic ties further.
Zimbabwe’s exports to the UAE are mainly composed of primary products such as minerals hence the need to diversify the product offering to that market.
As such, Zimtrade says there is potential for Zimbabwean farmers to increase exports to UAE if they secure direct exports, which will also improve their foreign currency earnings.
For farmers that can produce more, there are indications that Dubai will remain a viable market considering the total fresh produce bill of the market.
According to Trade Map, the fresh produce import market in UAE is valued over US$4 billion and of this amount, US$2,3 billion is re-exported to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and Iraq.
Without much production in terms of horticulture, the UAE is becoming a major supplier of horticultural produce into the Gulf Cooperation Council countries through the concept of re-exports.
Re-exports of UAE food industry is now over 50 percent of food imports and the country is regarded as one of most food insecure countries in the world.
ZimTrade says this reflects that local exporters who are able to create solid markets in Dubai will likely find it easy to use UAE as a gateway to land their products in other markets in Middle-East.
“Buyers in the Dubai market have expressed willing to procure avocadoes, strawberries, blueberries, citrus, peas, fresh and dried fruits, and sweet potatoes.
“Some of these produces are finding their way indirectly through intermediary markets such as the Netherlands.
“Other low hanging horticultural produces for exporting to Dubai include tea and coffee.
“Green tea consumption is growing, and coffee processing is increasing in the city, which is expected to grow demand in the coming years.
“For fresh produces, most of these buyers are already operating in Southern Africa through the Beira port and Durban port, making it easy for local producers to link and start exporting” ZimTrade said.
Further to the opportunities in the horticulture sector, there are emerging opportunities for local companies to supply an array of services to Dubai.
Some major companies operating in Dubai have their call centres remotely located, offering huge benefits for start-ups who have no capital to set huge operations.
It is encouraging, ZimTrade said, to note that some Zimbabwean companies are at an advance stage of concluding deals that will see them provide services such as customer support and education.
Due to the proliferation of hotels in Dubai there is a strong sense that exports of arts and crafts sector could do well in the country.
In 2019 alone, imports of arts and craft in UAE amounted to US$2 billion in 2019 ZimTrade said.
There is a further market for goat meat in Dubai.
However, to penetrate the meat market in the Islamic emirate, meat producers who wish to export to Dubai must ensure their products are Halal certified.
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