2023 in review: Top 8 News Impacting Africa’s Fresh Produce Export Industry

The first half of 2023 witnessed a series of pivotal moments that have set the course for the future of Africa’s fresh produce export sector. From innovative freight solutions to lifting existing bans, the industry experienced significant events that will have a lasting impact on its growth and performance in the years to come. In a previous article, we highlighted the top eight stories that dominated headlines in the first half of the year. In this article, we will highlight eight others that occurred in the second half.

  1. New regulations imposed on Mango exporters in Kenya

From November 2023, mango exporters in Kenya are subject to stringent physical inspections of their mangoes before shipment, with the location of their packhouse being subject to inspections facilitated by The Agriculture and Food Authority Horticultural Crops Directive.  

The measures came into place due to issues concerning mangoes being mixed with avocados during sea freight, which breaches horticulture crop regulations. This action also comes in response to the AFA’s ban on October 31 to cease the delivery of avocados, which were being exported prematurely. AFA has now implemented a directive to physically inspect mango export consignments after concerns that some exporters have been blending mangoes with avocados for sea shipments. 

  2. Tanzania’s future for the export of local cashew nuts.

With 10-15% of Tanzania’s foreign exchange coming from cashew nut exports, Tanzania is claimed to be one of the largest cashew producers in Africa. Yet, only 5% of raw cashews are being processed locally, with 95% being exported for value addition to Vietnam and India, before reaching consumers in Europe and The United States. In September 2023, the government initiated new policies, ensuring all exported cashews are no longer raw and need to be processed by 2026.27, to benefit the farmers from value-added products and a premium price. From raw cashew nuts, Tanzania earned US$226.9M from exports in the 2022/23 fiscal year, however, new markets and prices can be tapped into through the processing of cashews.  

 3. Zimbabwe’s citrus produce gains traction in China’s markets

In January 2022, the two countries signed an export protocol agreement to export fresh citrus fruits from Zimbabwe to China. The agreement would allow fresh citrus including sweet orange, mandarin, grapefruit, lemon, and lime, to enter China. Further into 2023, on June 1st, the General Administration of Customs of China released the list of registered Zimbabwean orchards and packhouses for citrus exporting to China. On the 17th of October 2023, Farmers Weekly stated that according to Zimbabwe’s Plant Quarantine Services Institute, a pilot phase was introduced in August, exporting 12 containers of citrus fruits, such as oranges, mandarins and grapefruit reaching the Chinese market, with 34 containers still in transit as of the 17th of October.

From October 2023 to the date of publishing this article, Zimbabwe had exported 46 containers, with each container holding 24 tonnes of oranges, set for the Chinese market. Additionally, through mutual agreements with Chinese contacts, an annual export quota has been quoted for 50,000 tonnes of citrus fruits, showing that earnings within Zimbabwean exporters are expected to rise further into the year.  

4. The first consignment of Kenyan avocados leaves for India 

Kenya has over 40 varieties of high-quality avocados and is ranked one of the largest avocado producers in the world. This milestone has allowed a bilateral trade agreement between Kenya and India, where avocado farmers can export produce to India.

The first shipment of avocados was sent on the 16th of September 2023, when 1.4 billion consumers were exposed to Kenyan avocados in Indian markets. Avocadoes are produced in small quantities in India, marking them as a noncommercial fruit crop. Due to low volumes, consumers are faced with high market prices, and therefore the importation of Kenyan avocados can lower prices and deepen market access of the fruit in India.

 5. Port of Cape Town operations are creating concerns among local citrus growers.

It was reported by EuroFruit in November 2023, that The Port of Cape Town’s inefficiencies are impeding, which has arisen due to the lack of investment, coupled with poor maintenance of infrastructure. Yet, the Western Cape is about to enter its peak export period of pears, stone fruits and grapes from November until May. Therefore, the deteriorating container terminal, currently experiencing breakdowns alongside rates of operations running 40% below their target, is hampering the ability of exporters to meet international markets and their demands.

A strategic plan is being implemented by South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister, with measures to improve efficiency, including; modifying truck operations and information sharing, enhancing terminal equipment and investment into infrastructure development whilst fostering closer collaboration between the public and private sector.

6. Kenya is the first EAC Member State to Sign a New Free Trade agreement with the EU.

On Tuesday the 3rd of October, the approval of a trade pact between Kenya and the European Council made Kenya the only East African Community member state to have agreements with the European Union, which will grant them duty-free access to the EU

According to EU data, the union will become Kenya’s second-largest trading partner, accumulating a respective Ksh512.6 billion (€3.3 billion) in 2022, which was an increase of 27% from 2018. January 2024 marks the beginning of the new trade deal where vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee and flowers will be amongst those being exported to the EU without quota restrictions.   

7. After a two-month ban, Kenya’s chilli exports to the EU have reopened. 

Back in July, chilis from Kenya didn’t meet the EU’s strict phytosanitary standards therefore led to a two-month hold on exports. As of 27th of September regular exports of chilis to the EU have been back on track.  

To alleviate future export mediations, the EU donated KES3.1 million to go towards lab testing equipment. The equipment will authorize Kenya to meet the standards of the Global Good Agricultural Practices (Global GAP) in terms of pesticide residues and EU regulations.

In conclusion 

The second half of 2023 has been marked by transformative developments in Africa’s fresh produce export industry. From the implementation of rigorous regulations, new markets, freight concerns, and ban-lifts. As we reflect on these key developments, it is clear that the fresh produce export industry in Africa is navigating a dynamic landscape, with both challenges and opportunities shaping its trajectory for the future.