Ongoing consumer demand for new fruits and vegetables in African countries has contributed to an increase in trade volume of fresh produce in developing countries (Uniafrica). This, in turn, has promoted the growth of small farms and the addition of new products, creating more rural and urban jobs and reduced the disparities in income levels among farms of different sizes. As countries who demand fresh fruit and vegetables become wealthier, their demand for high-valued commodities increases.

Advances in shipping and storage technologies have expanded the possibility for trade in both seasonal and tropical fruits and vegetables in Africa. Many African countries enjoy growing conditions favourable for the production of one or more of these crops, and most enjoy preferential access to EU markets (CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Nevertheless, there are several factors which limit the ability of African producers to participate efficiently in these markets. Geographical factors play an important role in shaping trade patterns, especially for the most perishable products. Access to port facilities or direct air links, the distance between producing regions and sea and air port facilities, the availability, nature of internal transportation and storage facilities, are all important in determining what fruits and vegetables can be exported by a given country.

Markets for off-season fruits and vegetables, and for tropical fruits, seem to be expanding. Nevertheless, African fruit and vegetable producers are faced with increasing competition due to the following factors:

Maritime Shipping:

In order to remain competitive in the fruits and vegetable trade, maritime shipping is a very important factor to consider. As a result, exporters of products for which the use of sea freight is practicable will probably have increased their use of maritime shipping. Maritime shipping tend to take longer time of processing compared to air fright because of many circumstances like availability of vessels to convey the fruits and vegetable to its destination, pirate attack, custom clearance etc.

Air freight:

Certain products, such as fresh French beans, have a limited shelf life and must be shipped via air freight. In some cases the loss of value from a twelve hour delay can be as high as 50 to 60 percent (Fresh Plaza). Land-locked producers are often forced to use air freight even for commodities which could be safely shipped by surface, due to a lack of appropriate and cost effective surface transport. Air transport itself is smooth and fast, but cargo handling and airport storage facilities can create problems.

Internal Transport:

Transport from the area of production to the point of embarkation can be as important as the leg between there and final markets, in terms both of cost and maintaining the value of the commodities. The limited development of internal transportation networks in many African countries tends to limit the area from which fresh commodities can be brought together for export.

Storage Facilities

The availability of suitable storage facilities is important. Transportation of fruit is sometimes an inherently “lumpy” process at both the internal and international levels. Most fruit and vegetable commodities must be stored under appropriate conditions, if they are not to suffer a decline in quality and value.

Communication and Services

The availability of specialised services, including freight forwarders and the distribution chain, can be a limiting factor in developing horticultural exports. Delays or improper handling at any point can greatly reduce the value of the commodities. Communications services, including online market information systems, are also important in some cases.

Product Quality and Homogeneity

Grading and quality control (including health regulations) have become an increasingly important element in competition in the export markets for fruits and vegetables, and can represent significant non-tariff barriers. In many African countries, the lack of large scale fruit orchards has been a barrier to increased exports of fruit and fruit products, because of difficulties in providing a product of predictable and uniform quality.

Countries trying to develop new fruits and vegetable for export must try to identify niche markets which they can address, based on climate, seasonality or cost factors. At early stages investments should focus on infrastructure (e.g. internal transportation) which could promote the efficiency of a wide variety of activities. Foreign investment can be useful in organising production and providing access to markets for mass consumption commodities. The Fruit and Vegetables markets can provide an entry for new or unusual fruit and vegetable products, and are able to handle smaller lots of commodities.



BRITINICA (Africa’s Fruit and Vegetable) –

CBI – MNISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS – Fresh Fruit and Vegetables West Africa –

HOW WE MADE IT IN AFRICA – Fresh fruit and Vegetable for Africa –

FRESH PLAZA – Farm Fresh Direct & Origin Fruit: looking for opportunities in Africa-


THE CONVERSATION – South Africa is missing out on fresh fruit export growth. What it needs to do –