ZIMBABWE – Following the penning of the citrus phytosanitary protocol,  Zimbabwe can now export fruits to China, in a development expected to broaden export destinations for the fruits and remove overdependence on South Africa and the European market.

The phytosanitary protocol requires that a cold chain system for the export of fresh citrus fruits to China be put in place like any other country including the European Union (EU) for the management of False Codling Moth and other pests.

This cold chain is required to commence at the port as opposed to the initial requirement for cooling to begin on the farm.

China was represented by the General Administration of Customs of China, Minister Ni Yuefeng while Zimbabwe was represented by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MLAFWRD) Anxious Masuka.

Varieties of fresh citrus to be exported to China from Zimbabwe include sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), lemon (Citrus limon and Citrus aurantifolia) and sour orange (Citrus aurantium).

“The General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China signed first and we followed suit. We are now educating stakeholders on the requirements to export fresh fruits to China. Local stakeholders from the citrus industry have accepted the favourable terms,” said Dr Dumisani Kutywayo, Acting Chief Director for Department of Research and Specialist Services.

The finalization of the protocol will provide an impetus towards the conclusion of partnerships and out grower arrangements with Chinese companies that are eager to export the products to China.

“The sweet & juicy Zimbabwean citrus will join the Chinese market as the citrus export protocol have just been signed. We are implementing President Xi’s pledge that China will open a green channel for the export of African agricultural products. It’ll benefit more Zimbabwean farmers,” said the Chinese embassy in Harare in a post on micro-blogging site, Twitter.

Trade protocol to cement relations

The signing of the trade protocol will also cement trade relations between the two nations and will open the door for other products some that we were not exporting hence will lead to an increase in agriculture contribution to the export basket.

China imports the grade b and c citrus as well and this will help Zimbabwe export those grades that are deemed inferior by traditional markets.

The request for the citrus fruits export protocol between Zimbabwe and China goes back to 2015 when Zimbabwe was seeking a market for Shashi Citrus smallholder farmers. China requested for Pest Risk Assessment information for the export of fresh citrus fruits from Zimbabwe to China.

On submission of the information, Chinese experts came to Zimbabwe in 2018 for a pre-shipment inspection of the citrus fields to determine the pests associated with citrus in Zimbabwe and whether the pack shades met the stipulated standards.

The evaluation discovered False Codling Moth (FCM), and Natal fruit flies as the chief pests of concern. This however did not deter Zimbabwe from their goal as  the negotiations proceeded from 2019 through 2020, resulting in the recently signed protocol between the two countries after agreeing on grid measures to take care of the concerns of plant biosecurity.

China has also agreed out of the protocol framework to provide technical assistance to Zimbabwe regarding fresh citrus exports to the Chinese market.

This initiative will improve local capacity for monitoring and surveillance of citrus plantations for insect pests and diseases.

Meanwhile all orchards and packing houses that wish to export citrus to China have been advised to register with the Ministry of Lands for approval by both the Ministry and MLAFWRD and the National Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC).

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