By Bolton Kudzai Kakava
Zimbabwe is a signatory of the UK Eastern-Southern Africa Economic Partnership Agreement (UK ESA-EPA) and the EU interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EU iEPA) which it should utilize to enjoy duty and quota free access to these markets. In addition, Zimbabwe signed a trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for local produce to access the market. Furthermore, the country signed a protocol with China to enable local citrus produce to enter into the Asian country after meeting the phytosanitary requirements. However, most local farmers have limited knowledge about these trade agreements and how to access these global markets. This article will use the Swedish market for fruit and vegetables as an example to illustrate how producers can access the market.
The Swedish market for fresh fruit and vegetables largely depends on imports. As consumers increasingly prefer fresh to processed produce, there are opportunities that Zimbabwe can take advantage of. This writeup provides an introduction to the Swedish market for fresh fruit and vegetables, giving an account of its structure and trends, this from the perspective of Sweden being a market within the EU and what that means in practice.
Sweden and EU market size
According to Statistics Sweden, the country import bill for fresh fruit and vegetables stood at €926 million. This share is much larger than the Swedish production, meaning Sweden relies heavily on imports of fresh fruit and vegetables. The European market for fresh fruit and vegetables is large and stable, with an interest in year-round supply of seasonal products and exotics. Europe is a major player in the fresh fruits and vegetables market, with traders operating globally, including in developing countries.
As a matter of fact, the share of developing countries in European supply is growing, reaching €15 billion of imports of fresh fruit and €3 billion of fresh vegetables in 2018. Intra-European trade represented the largest share for both categories: €19 billion fresh fruit and €17 billion fresh vegetables in 2018. Fruit and vegetables represent the largest category of grocery sales in Sweden, representing 19%, followed by meat (17%) and dairy products (15%).
Seasonality and Swedish demand
Some fruits and vegetable represent 100% imports into the Swedish market. These are products which cannot be produced in that country because of climatic conditions. These include bananas, citrus and pepper, among others. While tomatoes and apples are produced in Sweden, the country often imports from other European countries to supplement requirement. For certain products, however, Sweden is almost self-sufficient. This is the case for carrots for example, of which 90% of the demand is met by domestic production. For pears, however, the domestic production only covers 4% of the Swedish market.
Seasonality plays an important role both in Swedish and European demand for imports of fresh fruit and vegetables. For instance, cucumber and cauliflower are supplied by domestic production in the summer season, while there is no Swedish supply in the winter, hence demand is fully met by imports – largely from other European countries and countries close to Europe.
European seasonality also plays a role in Swedish imports. Spain is the most important producer of oranges in Europe, and the largest supplier to the Swedish market. In off-season, however, Sweden imports from Egypt, also a producer (and supplier not only to Sweden but also Spain), as well as the Netherlands and Germany, which are not producers but traders. The oranges traded through the Netherlands and Germany originate from South Africa and Egypt, the two largest non-European suppliers to the European Union. The seasonal demand means that for products available in Sweden and Europe only during certain months of the year, there are opportunities for producers who can supply during the other months.
Certification and sustainability
The importer is liable for the products they place on the Swedish market and in order to have proof of compliance with EU legislation, they often look at food safety certification. GLOBALG.A.P. has become such a common requirement. In fact, it has become a prerequisite for exporting to Sweden/European market. GLOBALG.A.P. includes food safety and traceability, environmental and social welfare, as well as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which is also part of the European legislation.
Apart from GLOBALG.A.P., food safety certification is generally required by all European and Swedish importers and the majority will require certification according to a product safety standard approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), for example BRCGS and FSSC 22000. There are two organic labels on the Swedish market: the EU organic logo, and the Swedish KRAV certification. The EU certification is the basis for products marketed as organic in the EU, as it certifies the minimum requirements for organic established by the EU.
KRAV is older and has a better consumer recognition in Sweden, although the requirement to include the EU organic logo on all organic production the EU, has led to increased recognition, at the expense of country logos such as KRAV. Nevertheless, KRAV still holds an added value in the view of Swedish consumers, while the EU logo is expected to continue to grow in recognition.
In conclusion, farmers, food processers and feed manufacturers in Zimbabwe must comply with these food safety standards to find their produce on international markets such as Sweden and the EU.
Bolton Kudzai Kakava is a regulations and compliance consultant and regenerative organic agriculture agronomist.
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