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Zimbabwe’s agriculture can be competitive internationally

By Nqobile Bhebhe
Posted on Monday, 4 July 2016 11:05

The southern African country’s agricultural products exports to the EU markets have exceeded €400 million in the last three years, the EU’s representative in Zimbabwe has said.

The EU is a huge market for Zimbabwe and presents a great opportunity

Ambassador Philippe Van Damme told government officials that despite the strained relationship between EU and Zimbabwe, trade could be boosted if the African nation finalises the pending land ownership dispute.

Zimbabwe has for the past few years been courting the EU to improve relations after the bloc slapped sanctions on President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle over alleged human rights abuses.

“The EU is a huge market for Zimbabwe and presents a great opportunity especially in the exportation of agricultural products” he said. “Last year, Zimbabwe exported goods worth €400 million to the European Union.”

Tobacco contributed 25% of the total exports and other dominant exports being sugar cane, citrus fruits, tea, vegetables, leguminous vegetables and flowers.

Before relations with the EU froze, Zimbabwe used to export produce worth over $200 million annually to the bloc’s different countries.

“Sugarcane has also emerged as a leading export commodity to Europe since 2012 with exports having gobbled between €50 and €100 million in revenue, while hides and leather products have doubled to €30 million,” van Damme said.

He said this shows Zimbabwe can be competitive internationally. “It’s up to Zimbabwe now to find ways to unlock this potential,” van Damme said.

The EU in November 2014 lifted sanctions on several businesses connected to Zimbabwe’s government, although Mugabe, his wife and inner circle remain on the embargo.

With western countries shunning Zimbabwe and a downturn in the country’s economy, the country is all but paralysed, with most of its key markets shut to it.

Zimbabwe was once one of the largest exporters of a wide range of horticultural products in Africa, supplying overseas markets including Europe and the Middle East.

The country also became a valuable exporter of cut flowers, and by 2001 was ranked the second largest in Africa, behind Kenya and was the fifth biggest exporter to the EU.

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