bird TenX: 10 major horticultural exports from Africa. Graphic by Vikki Keingati, bird story agency

From cut flowers to citrus, avocados, and asparagus, African countries are exporting a diverse range of horticultural products to global markets and earning significant revenues in return.

Africa (12 March 2024) – Agriculture is a central part of Africa’s economy, accounting for up to 35% of the continent’s GDP. Apart from trade in cash crops, the horticulture subsector is witnessing growth in a range of horticultural products, filling supply gaps in global markets.

Here are some of the 10 major horticultural export products Africa supplies to global markets.

1. Cut flowers

The global cut flower trade is a crucial export sector for several African nations. Kenya and Ethiopia stand out, ranking in the top 10 global exporters, according to the World Atlas. Last year, individual government reports showed the two exported 134,000 and 4,500 metric tons, respectively. Kenya dominates, supplying nearly 40% of Europe’s demand. Nigeria and Uganda are also significant players in this lucrative market.

2. Fresh Grapes

The World Bank estimates that African grape product exports represent a significant portion of global supply, with South Africa commanding 9% of the global market. Export earnings from the sector averaged US$836 million as of 2022, according to OEC World. Egypt, Namibia, Morocco, and Tunisia are also exporters of fresh grapes.

3. Citrus Fruits

South Africa has been a leading citrus exporter, consistently ranked among the top 5 globally. Its leading position is being upstaged by Egypt, however, with that country experiencing a projected 3% growth in orange production last year, with South Africa experiencing a slight decline. Egypt is poised to exceed 2 million metric tons of oranges, more than South Africa’s contribution of around 1.5 million metric tonnes annually. Additionally, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Somalia also export citrus.

4. Avocados

With an annual output of more than 150,000 metric tons, Kenya is the continent’s largest exporter of avocados. Data from the Agricultural Food Authority (AFA) shows that Kenya exports up to 20,000 metric tonnes of avocados annually, mainly to the European Union and the Middle East. While South Africa and Ethiopia take up the next two top export slots. According to the Rabobank World Avocado Map 2023, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Burundi, and Morocco are also exporters of avocados. Europe is the major export destination for avocados from the continent, with China becoming an important market too.

5. Mangoes

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), African countries earned over US$500 million from mango exports in 2022, with the European Union, the Middle East, and Asia being primary export destinations. Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan and South Africa are key players in the African mango market.

6. Pineapples

Ghana ranks among the top pineapple-producing countries in Africa, with an annual production exceeding 500,000 metric tons. Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Cameroon are also significant producers. Ghana’s exports between 2021 and 2023 have averaged more than US$20 million, with more than 80% going into the EU market. Nigeria, Kenya, the Democratic. The Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Guinea and South Africa are also major exporters of pineapple.

7. Dates

According to Worldstats, four African countries are among the world’s ten largest producers of states. Egypt leads the pack with 1.7 million metric tons, followed by Algeria with 1.2 million metric tonnes. Volumes from Sudan and Tunisia are about 460000 and 345000, respectively. Libya and Morocco are also large-scale producers. Egypt, the largest exporter of dates from Africa, exported 28400 metric tons to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia), its primary market, in 2022, according to East Fruit.

8. Vegetables

Egypt is also a key exporter of vegetables, dealing mainly in potatoes, and fresh onions while last year, Morocco overtook Spain and Iran to become the world’s third-best tomato exporter globally, accumulating revenues of more than US$1 billion from tomato exports in the process. Mexico and the Netherlands are the top two global producers of tomatoes while South Africa and Namibia are also among the top exporters of tomatoes. Other unique vegetable products exported from Africa include dried chilli from Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

9. Macadamia

In two decades, macadamia production in South Africa has surged over 20-fold. According to Macadamias South Africa (SAMAC), South Africa is now the world’s leading macadamia producer. In 2023, of its 77,000 metric tons of production, 98% was exported. Based on revenues, South Africa dominates the market, earning $291 million in 2022. Kenya, a significant player, earned $109 million from macadamia exports in the same year according to OEC World data.

10. Asparagus

Asparagus production in Africa may be modest, but several countries are ramping up efforts to expand. South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Namibia, Madagascar, and Kenya are all making strides in cultivating and exporting asparagus, albeit on a smaller scale. Morocco stands out with its significant growth, nearly doubling exports in the past five years. According to East Fruit, Morocco now ranks 19th globally in vegetable exports, hitting a record 500 metric tonnes during the June 2022–February 2023 harvest period.

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