Blueberry Boom: Zimbabwe emerges as a Global Blueberry Powerhouse
Despite their diminutive size, blueberries pack a powerful punch in terms of nutrition and flavor. These summer berries are brimming with antioxidants and vitamins, making them a perfect choice for a healthy snack. But their versatility extends beyond mere snacking; blueberries can also be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes, adding an unexpected burst of flavor.
In an unexpected turn of events, Zimbabwe, a country better known for its economic struggles, has emerged as a global leader in blueberry export growth. Zimbabwe’s success in blueberry cultivation is largely attributed to its exceptional climate conditions. The country’s high altitude, warm temperatures, and ample sunshine provide an ideal environment for blueberry plants to thrive. These conditions contribute to the production of blueberries with superior flavor, size, and shelf life, making them highly sought after by international buyers. Other contributing factors include access to high-quality irrigation water, and investments from experienced blueberry growers.
An investment boom in Zimbabwe’s blueberry farming sector has fueled the country’s rapid ascent to blueberry export prominence. Investors, primarily from neighboring South Africa, are drawn to Zimbabwe’s favorable climate, abundant irrigation water, and affordable labor force. These investors, often with prior experience cultivating blueberries in similar climatic conditions, have established high-yielding plantations producing high-quality berries. Additionally, their established sales channels facilitate the smooth distribution of Zimbabwean blueberries to international markets.
Zimbabwe’s blueberry export growth has surpassed that of any other country, averaging a staggering 63% annual increase over the past five years. In 2022, exports surged by 85%, reaching over 5,000 tons, propelling Zimbabwe into the ranks of the top 15 blueberry exporters worldwide, surpassing Serbia in terms of export volume. Andrij Yarmak, an economist at the Food and Agriculture Ministry’s investment department, projects that Zimbabwe’s blueberry exports could skyrocket by another 30-40% in 2023, potentially reaching 6.5-7.0 thousand tons. South Africa serves as a primary destination for Zimbabwean blueberries, likely for further re-export. Additionally, Zimbabwe directly exports fresh blueberries to the UK, EU, Middle East countries, and Russia.
Georgia, another emerging blueberry powerhouse, has witnessed an average annual export growth rate of 50%. In 2023, Georgia’s blueberry exports soared by 2.5 times, reaching 3.4 thousand tons. However, it is worth noting that a portion of these blueberries may have originated from Ukraine and been re-exported by Georgian traders to the Russian market.
Zimbabwe’s remarkable transformation into a blueberry export giant highlights the country’s untapped agricultural potential. With continued investment and support, Zimbabwe is poised to further solidify its position as a global leader in blueberry production and export.