April 19, 2024

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Fruitful Harvest at Risk: Zimbabwe’s Economic Crisis Threatens Blueberry Market

Blueberry production, one of the fastest-growing crops in Zimbabwe, is at risk from high borrowing costs and a currency crisis, according to a trade association.

The blue fruit is thought to have several health benefits, including the ability to prevent a number of major risk factors for health, according to some studies, which has led to a rise in consumption worldwide in recent years.

According to the Horticultural Development Council (HDC), Zimbabwe doubled its blueberry production to 7,000 metric tons this year. The country’s climate permits high yields from open field planting and early delivery into export markets.

But plantings, which have increased by nearly 800% to 575 hectares since 2018, stalled this year as farmers struggled with high borrowing costs and the effects of an unstable economy.

The HDC said, “There were no significant new blueberries in 2023 as growers recovered from a tough 2022. An additional 100 hectares is anticipated only in 2024.”

Farmers only receive 75% of their export earnings in US dollars, with the remaining portion being paid in local currency that has lost nearly 90% of its value since the start of the year. According to the HDC, high interest rates and restricted access to long-term financing are negatively affecting farmers.

As they support the emerging industry, growers are also asking for reductions in land levies, income tax holidays, and the elimination of import duties for essential inputs.

The HDC said, “Unless policy issues are resolved, this promising industry risks stagnation will miss out on a strong opportunity to position itself as a leader on the global stage.”

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