At Panalpina we cherish perishables. And so does a growing number of consumers in all corners of the world. Consumers increasingly seek quality fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods like seafood, and local producers are stepping in to meet the rising international demand. Interestingly, many of these producers are in places that you would not necessarily expect. Here are five countries that are punching above their weight or showing new ambition when it comes to exporting fresh produce.
Judging by its top exports, listed by the Observatory of Economic Complexity as gold, raw tobacco, ferroalloys, diamonds, and raw sugar, you wouldn’t exactly expect Zimbabwe to be a successful producer of raspberries, blueberries and asparagus, the latter being a traditional Latin American product. But good weather conditions and increased foreign demand are pushing growth.
High-value crops such as raspberries, blueberries and stone fruit are grown in the northern Mashonaland province, in the Midlands and the southern Masvingo province. Most of the country’s perishables are exported to supermarket chains in Europe, particularly in the UK. Many local producers see growth opportunities and would like to tap more into Western markets as they plan to expand production.
Prior to the 1975-2002 civil war, which disrupted agricultural production and displaced millions of people, Angola was a major fruit exporter and self-sufficient in all crops except wheat. Nowadays, oil represents an overwhelming 91% of the country’s exports, followed by diamonds at 5%. However, the country is now taking advantage of its very fertile soil and varied microclimates for year-round production of citrus fruits.
90% of Angolan farms are small or medium-sized and dedicated to communal subsistence, but there is a range of governmental initiatives to help them cultivate high-value crops for export to Europe and Asia Pacific, too. The Benguela, Huambo, Huila, and Moxico provinces already host several citrus programs. Judging by its potential, Angola could be competing with South Africa as a fruit exporter in the near future.
Like Angola, crude petroleum and its derivatives are the top exports of Azerbaijan; sugar and nuts come next. But with its minimal unit production costs and optimal geographic conditions that include 9 out of 11 climatic zones, Azerbaijan, one of the earliest sites of human agricultural activity, wants to become a major exporter of perishables.
Roughly 40% of the working population is employed in agriculture, and although the prevalent small land plots parceled out to individual farmers in post-Soviet land reforms may be seen as an obstacle to large-scale plantations, they are suitable for the kind of niche deals favored in direct trade. Azerbaijani farmers are well-organized and working with governments and partners abroad. Fresh fruits such as blueberries, but also fresh vegetables, for example salads, are promising export products and Azerbaijan puts high priority on food safety standards that are in line with EU regulations.
The country’s agricultural transformation is well under way. Since 2005, Azerbaijan has doubled its fresh fruit and berry production.
Meanwhile in Europe, although Serbia’s typical exports include cars, corn, insulated wire, and rubber tires, in fact, fruit production is one of the key sub-sectors of Serbia’s economy and is given a strategic treatment by the government. In 2015 the country was the largest provider of frozen fruit to France and Belgium, and the second largest to Germany.
European retailers’ interest in Serbia’s newly established commercial production of blueberries is growing and the country is now seen as a viable option to cover the often short supply of the fruit. Serbian producers with good know-how and the latest technologies aim to occupy the commercial window between the southern and northern European blueberry seasons. Thanks to the favorable microclimates in the regions of Mladenovac and Bajina Bašta in the west of the country, as well as in parts of the south, blueberries are being heavily planted. Only recently, Panalpina oversaw the first direct shipments of blueberries from Belgrade to retailers in the UK and Netherlands.
The Scots have traditionally been producers of crab and lobster – the earliest records of lobster fishing in Scotland date back to the 12th century, predating whiskey making. Scotland’s natural environment is a real selling point. Crustaceans are landed throughout the Scottish coast during the third and fourth quarters of the year and most are exported live to markets in southern Europe. However, Asian markets and China in particular are taking an increasingly large share of the catch, as they consider the soft-shelled brown crab and lobsters to be some of the finest crustaceans, even though they provide less meat than the hard-shelled versions. The brown crabs were initially being sent frozen, but the appetite for fresh food has dramatically increased live air freight volumes.
According to Seafood Scotland, seafood now accounts for the biggest rise (26% year on year) in food exports.
Be it crabs or berries, the global appetite for fresh food is big all year round and ambitious producers all over the world are stepping up to the plate to meet the growing demand and guarantee continuous supply.