LEADING fruit and vegetable products distributor, Ali Gholami, which is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), says it intends to increase the volume and value of its horticultural imports from Zimbabwe by growing the current tonnage more than 10 times over the next two years.
This was said by Ali Gholami imports manager, Shihad Aboobacker, in an interview after a tour of the company by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. He said that the Dubai head-quartered company was currently importing a few types of berries from a Zimbabwean company, but had started working on plans to expand the basket of its imports multiple times.
The VP toured the company, including it's state of the art chillers, accompanied by Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, secretary for Industry and Commerce Dr Mavis Sibanda and permanent secretary in the VP's office Major General Godfrey Chanakira (Rtd) as well as a number of line ministry directors.
Ali Gholami is one of many companies and Gulf Region investors lining up to hold discussions with the VP, who is in Dubai, UAE, for the Global Business Forum Africa (GBFA), to be held today and tomorrow, on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Mr Aboobacker said there was potential to multiply the tonnage after the company was informed that Zimbabwe had the capacity to produce a wide range of other fruits and veggies it imports from others parts of the world, including bananas, pineapples, tomatoes, beetroot, watermelons and sweet potatoes, among others.
Mr Aboobacker said his company was currently importing about five tonnes of horticultural products from Zimbabwe, which it started recently, but after realising that a number of the fresh produce it imports from markets further than Zimbabwe, expressed strong commitment to grow its imports from this country.
"Right now we can say maybe only five tonnes per week, we have just started two months ago, but we would like to increase the volume.
"At the moment we have a programme for one or two items but we would like to increase the volume; we have entered an agreement with one of the Zimbabwean growers associations.
"So, there will be 10 more new products that we will be importing from Zimbabwe and within two years the volume will increase more than 10 times, we just started the business with Zimbabwe and so we have few products, but later we are going to have more," Mr Aboobacker said.
In an interview after his meeting with Mr Ali Gholami, founder and chairman and other senior executives of the Dubai based company, which had earlier toured, VP Chiwenga said the company had huge potential to increase the volume of fruits and vegetables from Zimbabwe.
"They are into vegetables, into blue berries and other fruits.
"The purpose of the tour was to see the range of the fruits (and vegetables) which they would want to import for their market here, what we produce in Zimbabwe and what Zimbabwe can offer in terms of fruits and vegetables.
"We have seen that there's great potential in the (UAE); so there's going to be further discussions, utilising our own ambassador here; Ambassador Lovemore Mazemo, who will be communicating with the company here (UAE).
"The directors of the company will also come to Zimbabwe to enter into contracts with a number of farmers; with a number of horticultural producers and so, we see that great potential," Vice President Chiwenga said.
He stressed the point that Zimbabwe had the potential to provide the market in Dubai and the rest of the UAE constituents with their requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables across the horticultural sector, "because we can grow any type of vegetable in Zimbabwe".
VP Chiwenga said Zimbabwe had a wide range of fruits and vegetables, emphasising that all that is going to be done would be to determine what the markets wants and in what sort of quantities.
Prof Mthuli said the Government was more than ready to play it's part to support fruits and vegetable producers in the country, including the company currently supplying the UAE's Ali Gholami, in order for them to meet the requirements of the export market.
The Treasury chief said the Government would in the next two months set up a revolving fund for horticultural producers, to be extended to producers through local banks at concessionary rates.
Zimbabwe's total horticulture exports for the first six months of this year climbed beyond US$30 million, as producers benefited from Government incentives, a good rainy season and the reopening of global markets.
According to official data released by local trade promotion body, ZimTrade recently, the growth in exports represents a 6,5 percent increase from US$31,8 million during the same period last year to US$33,9 million.
Players in the sector attribute the grown in exports earnings to a horticulture recovery plan, Government financing schemes and technical assistance from the Government and development partners. Major contributors of revenues during the six months included tea, macadamia nuts, citrus, berries, fresh flowers and leguminous vegetables.