Chinese company in US$2,5m agric project

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Brighton Goko

STAFF WRITER

gokob@dailynews.co.zw     

THE China and Zimbabwe Agricultural Company has started an ambitious US$2,5 million seed breeding project in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central, to help the government to revamp the agricultural sector.

The investment was made through the China Industrial International Group, the parent company of the China and Zimbabwe Agricultural Company.

China Industrial International Group chief executive Nie Haiyang said the seed breeding base in Mazowe would start with citrus production.

“The seed breeding base in Mazowe is targeting an estimated one million seedlings per year,” said Nie.

He said they were targeting to distribute five million trees seedlings in the next five years, adding that a minimum of 3 000 hectares had been earmarked for the project.

“So far we have constructed 12 000 square metres of isolation greenhouses, with plans on course to invest in testing equipment and, applying for a licence to train agricultural experts,” he added.

Under the project, apples, grapes, bananas, peaches and pears would be grown by local farmers under contract farming.

The project is expected to see Zimbabwe generate foreign currency as the local farmers’ produce would be exported to China.

“To guarantee viability of the project, interested farmers will have to have their soil tested, facilities looked at and sign contracts, among other requirements,” said Nei.

The ambitious project is also expected to  cascade into the southern African region as China looks further afield to invest in the continent’s agriculture to provide food for the Asian nation.

To highlight China Industrial International Group’s commitment to growing the country’s agricultural sector, the firm has in the past three years funded three delegations of officials from Zimbabwe’s Agriculture ministry to China to explore the market and understand the cultivation and planting bases of different fruit seeds.

Citrus production in the Mazowe Valley can be traced back to around 1914, when the first commercial citrus estate was established.

In China, regions such as Guangxi and Sichuan have in the past few years been increasing areas under citrus production, with demand driven by the need for seasonal fruits.

Demand for high quality fruit has been rising from Chinese middle class consumers, making the citrus sector highly lucrative.

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