Dubai, which is the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, is one of the fastest-growing economic hubs in the world.
It is renowned for luxury resorts, ultra-modern architecture, and expansive shopping malls.
The expanding economic activities and increased tourism in Dubai have created a taste for exotic products, which provides opportunities for Zimbabwean products.
Dubai is an upper-middle-class income city dominated by a working-class population that have a high marginal propensity to spend and consume.
Emphasis is on quality and taste preference, offering further opportunities for local producers that are known for high-quality products.
Although world exports to UAE —which stood at US$261,5 billion in 2018 consist of motor vehicles, gold and jewelry, aircraft, petroleum, and other oils, there is room for local businesses to increase shipments by focusing on areas that Zimbabwe enjoys a competitive and comparative advantage.
Horticultural produce offers viable options for Zimbabwe to increase exports to UAE, whose total import bill of horticultural products topped US$3 billion in 2018, according to Trade Map, an online portal that tracks world trade.
As Dubai is generally a dry city in the middle of the desert, it spends a lot of money on fruits, vegetables and meat products, thereby presenting opportunities for Zimbabwean products.
Most of the horticultural produce consumed there, including in hotels and restaurants, are imports.
Low-hanging export options available for exploitation by farmers and local businesses include oranges, grapes, pears, avocados, potatoes, shelled chickpeas, guavas, mangoes, stone fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, and fresh-cut roses and buds.
These products are already in demand and local farmers can produce them.
Current food exports from Zimbabwe to Dubai include strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, a black fermented tea, and fresh and dried fruits.
Some of this produce is finding its way indirectly through intermediary markets such as the Netherlands.
Other low-hanging horticultural produce that can be exported to Dubai include tea and coffee.
Green tea consumption is growing, and coffee processing is increasing in the city, which is expected to grow demand for coffee in 2020 going forward.
As with the rest of the UAE, Dubai is largely a desert area where temperatures can be as high as 52 degrees celsius, which makes agricultural production difficult.
Some of the farming taking place in Dubai is done under controlled environments such as glasshouses.
Therefore there is room to export organic fresh produce, which is considered healthy and tasty superfoods.
Zimbabwe’s large arable land and favorable climatic conditions are underutilized resources that local farmers and exporters should take advantage of to increase the country’s contribution to Dubai’s horticultural imports.
Further, local exporters can take advantage of Zimbabwe’s unique supply window to Dubai, which is similar to what it enjoys with Europe for most horticultural produce.
Local farmers should pay attention to these supply windows to optimize sales.
For example, Zimbabwean farmers can optimize on peas exports to Dubai in April/May, before other countries like Peru kick in.
There is also a market for goat meat in Dubai.
However, to penetrate the meat market in the Islamic Emirate, meat producers who wish to export to Dubai must ensure their products are Halal-certified.
This is the same case with manufacturers of processed foods, where product certification should be considered a must, as it will ensure easy penetration into the market.
To improve the competitiveness of local produce in Dubai, farmers and exporters must ensure that the packaging provides convenience for the end-user and meet the city’s regulatory requirements.
For example, all food items being exported to Dubai should have production and expiration dates on all packages.
Also, a coordinated approach, which ensures the contribution of smallholder farmers, can improve Zimbabwe’s horticultural exports to Dubai.
There are ongoing efforts to improve the participation of smallholder farmers on the global market through, for example, strengthening associations and/or the onboard scheme.
ZimTrade, the national trade development, and promotion organization are working on capacitating some local farmers to take on board small-scale farmers as their outgrowers, as noted in the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Netherlands-based PUM.
The MoU will pave way for the successful implementation of the Best Model Farm Project (BMFP) that is meant to grow horticultural exports from local small-scale farmers.
The cooperation is designed to improve market access for small-scale farmers and grow their contribution to export earnings.
Furthermore, UAE’s drive towards economic diversification has seen them become one of the biggest re-exporters of food and horticultural produce in the Middle East.
Dubai provides a gateway to the Middle East, and local companies can leverage on existing export products to grow Zimbabwe’s market share and diversify the product range into the region.
Zimbabwe is already exporting some products to Dubai.
Local companies can, therefore, leverage on current products to diversify exports.
The Emirates is increasing engagements with African countries, offering an important window for local companies that wish to establish a foothold in the Middle East.
The recently concluded 5th Dubai Global Business Forum on Africa, in which Zimbabwe was represented, ended with the Emirate committing to open its market to African countries.
The Expo Dubai 2020 will also provide an opportunity for Zimbabwe to market itself as a tourist destination, investment center and a unique source of various products.
Originally published on www.sundaymail.co.zw