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Zimbabwe eyes US$4m Japanese avocado market

By Patrice Makova in Tokyo, Japan

Zimbabwe has the potential to earn over US$4 million annually from exporting avocados to Japan if the Asian country removes its restrictions on the importation of fresh fruits and vegetables from Africa, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) has said.

In an interview at the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) which ended in Japan on Friday, CZI chairperson for the committee on trade development and investment promotion, Henry Nemaire, said the country was ready to export an
initial 1 000 tonnes of avocados to the Asian giant annually.

He said the private sector participated at TICAD to seek the opening-up of the Japanese market for Zimbabwean products, which were
globally acclaimed and could easily make it in the Asian country.

“As you know, Japan has prohibited fruit and vegetables from Africa, but we have now sat down with their ministry officials here at TICAD
and told them they need to undo the prohibitions so that we can start supplying avocados from Zimbabwe into this market,” Nemaire said.

“Our avocados are certified and they are already going to Europe.

“What the Japanese simply need to do is ride on the certification already there to buy the avocados from Zimbabwe.

“The price here is very good. The average retail price in Japan is about US$8, which is very good and it’s even higher than Europe.”

He added: “If, let’s say, we are able to sell 1 000 tonnes into Japan, we can earn in the region of US$4 million plus per annum. So that
is what we will be initially aiming for.”

Nemaire said at TICAD, Japanese businesspeople made a lot of enquiries about natural honey from Zimbabwe and were also looking for
macadamia nuts, soya beans and several other agricultural products.

Currently, the Japanese government does not require any certification for imported macadamia nuts while the hass type of avocado is
considered to be export quality.

“They are happy to buy the nuts from us. Very soon we have plans to value-add on our macadamia nuts so that we can export them as
processed nuts, oils and so forth,” Nemaire said.

Nemaire said the Asian market was very strong in demanding that the private sector work with governments from Africa when penetrating
markets be it in China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and others.

“The Asian system very much trusts governments better than the private sector,” he added.

“For example, for them to lift the prohibitions on the importation of fruits and vegetables from Africa, it requires the ministry of
agriculture in Zimbabwe to start negotiations with the ministry of agriculture, food safety and consumption in Japan.

“Then after that, the Japanese government can relax the import restrictions and then the private sector can come in now and start opening
up the market.”

Nemaire added: “The role of the Zimbabwean government is to put the foot forward in the discussions.

“The government has to walk with us all the way. It’s a tough journey, but government has to be prepared to sweat it out to get the
sophisticated markets like the Japanese and Chinese ones.”

ZimTrade CEO Allan Majuru said, the Japanese market had stringent requirements for the importation of fresh produce and vegetables,
hence the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Zimbabwe’s trade promotion body and the Japan External Trade
Organisation (JETRO) to, among other things, capacitate local producers to meet the required standards.

He said the Japanese market was very lucrative and ZimTrade would do all it could to ensure that Zimbabwean companies meet the

“This is why we’re going to train and capacitate SMEs so that they meet the standards required by the Japanese,” Majuru said.

“It’s hard, but achievable and once we meet the standards, the sky is the limit.”

One-Stop Investment Services Centre interim chairperson Washington Mbizvo said the response from Japanese businesses had been tremendous.

“In the past, Japan has been rushing to other African countries and had not really discovered Zimbabwe and yet you recall that they were
the first country to set up an embassy in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“They also set up a big satellite dish in Mazowe in the early 80s. So we’re now trying to resuscitate that friendship through the
president’s re-engagement efforts.

“The Japanese businesspeople and industrialists are very keen and we have been meeting them and discussing concrete proposals, concrete
deals of setting up factories, manufacturing industries in Zimbabwe for electro mechanic engineering systems, for production of valves,
spare parts and so on so that we do not spend foreign currency and just buying things from outside.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was among several African leaders that attended the TICAD.

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