As Zimbabwean companies and producers move into export markets, they need to establish a reputation as a reliable source of the right products, at the right price and delivered at the right time.
Some exports are easier than others. At one end we have metals from mines. They have an almost infinite shelf life and it is very easy to pinpoint precisely what percentage of each metal is in a particular batch of bars.
Some metals, such as gold and platinum groups, there are international standards for bullion and here Zimbabwe has to bring the final processing home but within those standards.
Other metals are thrown into alloy furnaces and all the buyer wants to know is exactly how much of each metal is in a bar so they can determine how many bars to use.
Agricultural exports have different criteria. Our main agricultural export is tobacco, and tobacco merchants benefit from precise grading and careful processing.
Although tobacco has a long shelf life at room temperature, steps should be taken to ensure that not only are fungi and other pests kept at bay, but that the methods used to do so do not poison the tobacco. possible smoker.
More importantly, there is a wide price range for type and quality, with high quality leaves flavoring eventual quality cigarettes selling at many times the price of a filler tobacco just there for supply bulk and nicotine.
The potential blender of a formula used in particular in a blend does not want to juggle with the formulas each year.
If a type of Zimbabwean tobacco of a particular quality is 10% of a big brand’s blend, that’s a big plus and the buyer wants the same quality in the same volumes year after year so smokers get the same taste as they pay for.
Cotton is much the same. Varieties have different lint lengths and thicknesses and the prospective buyer on the quality side of the market needs an assured supply of the correct length and quality if the best prices are to be obtained.
General quality, suitable for medium-grade textiles, will not yield as much.
Zimbabwe discussed how horticulture can once again become an important export crop. Here there are a number of factors.
Many vegetables have a short shelf life, even when refrigerated, and often have to be transported by air, which means planes with cargo capacity flying to the relevant market are required.
Once we’re in that kind of league we’re dealing with some very picky consumers and since Zimbabwe is near the end of a great continent that means we need all the premiums available to justify the cost of the air Transport.
So we need to have the varieties of vegetables that consumers want, we need to be able to supply them regularly and frequently, and we need to put in place the cold chains to get the vegetables from the farm to the middle-class kitchen in perfect condition. .
At Expo Dubai, our pavilion’s Chief Commissioner, Ambassador Mary Mubi, was not only there to explain the opportunities to those visiting the pavilion, but explored business opportunities in Dubai and the Arab Emirates. generally united.
And one opening she found was horticulture and high-quality meat exports. The Emirates are food importers, which is not surprising considering that it is largely desert and semi-desert, but has a growing population and a large number of guest workers to expand their workforce.
Transportation is less of an issue than in almost all other markets. Emirates airline flies six days a week from Harare and almost certainly has spare cargo capacity on outbound flights as most cargo will be high priority imports, such as spare parts entering Zimbabwe.
We can therefore tick two boxes, that there is a market and that the transport component is covered, at least for a reasonable level of export.
But as Ambassador Mubi pointed out, there is more. For starters, we are not the only agricultural exporter in the tropics on an Emirates route.
It is indeed difficult to find such a country that is not a reasonable number of flight hours from Dubai.
So if we want to enter this market, we have to meet the other criteria, both for meat and for vegetables.
These, as she pointed out, are of consistent high quality and a steady supply. It’s not very useful to send a container of something once in a while.
The buyer at the other end wants the daily or weekly shipment, and the contents of the container to be something they know they can sell.
And there are international standards and these must be respected. Obviously, someone buying fresh food wants to know that it’s completely safe, to begin with, and that no one has mixed in chemicals that the end consumer doesn’t want.
She has extended her advice to manufactures, both for the UAE and for other export markets, again using her own experience in diplomacy and the fact that she is present at the major international trade fair. .
There are potential markets, but getting into these Zimbabwean businesses requires guaranteed consistent quality, and here she recommended getting the international certification that many buyers want to see before they spend their money.
One factor in a semi-closed economy like Zimbabwe’s is that producers can get away with something that’s acceptable if not perfect, as long as it’s cheap.
When looking to export, and even when our growers are competing with overseas growers keen to export to Zimbabwe, we need guaranteed quality levels and consistent quality batch after batch.
This is standard but absolutely essential business practice when trying to sell to new customers who don’t know who you are, and who might even be in a rush to put their finger on the right spot on a map, but who know what they want and who will pay a fair price for consistently high quality.
We must seek out these markets and set up the production and value chains necessary to meet the needs.