PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has praised United States President Donald Trump for allowing an American company to supply farming equipment to Zimbabwe in support of the country’s agricultural mechanisation programme, the Daily News reports.
The support came despite the embargoes imposed on Zimbabwe by America, as well as the recent comments by US national security adviser Robert O’Brien — that Zimbabwe was one of Washington’s “foreign adversaries” who were allegedly using social media to stoke social unrest in the States.
The later issue even resulted in the summoning of the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, by the ministry of Foreign Affairs — as Harare sought to distance itself from the claims.
Speaking during the commissioning of a US$51 million mechanisation facility in Harare yesterday, Mnangagwa revealed that he had met the president of the American-based company, John Deere — Mark von Pentz — sometime in 2018.
Von Pentz had then expressed interest in availing farming equipment to the government.
Initially, Mnangagwa was sceptical that this would happen owing to the country’s damaged relationship with the US.
“By way of background, on 7th November 2018, I was pleased to receive the president of John Deere Agricultural World Wide Mark von Pentz who paid me a courtesy call at my Munhumutapa offices.
“I was sceptical at the time because they are based in America and I think you can appreciate the reason why.
“But I am extremely pleased that today we stand here, two years down the line, with the evidence of the private sector from America co-operating with us in our endeavour to modernise and mechanise our economy,” Mnangagwa said.
“For that, we need to send a message of gratitude to President Donald Trump and his administration for this gesture,” he added.
Mnangagwa also said John Deere’s presence in Zimbabwe was an indication that his government was moving in the right direction towards achieving its engagement and re-engagement policy.
“The coming in of the John Deere Agriculture World Wide into the agriculture value chain also bears testimony to the success of our engagement and re-engagement policy.
“It further attests to the commitment by my government to work with various partners and investors, guided by the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra to grow and prosper our economy so that our people can have a better quality of life,” he said.
Speaking at the same function, Nichols said in order for the government’s mechanisation programme to be successful, there was need to implement market-based policies and to respect the rule of law in the country.
“This is something that we have been working on for years to support agriculture in Zimbabwe through American-based companies.
“We are very proud that John Deere is here doing business and we hope to bring more American companies to Zimbabwe.
“In order to be successful, we need to see market-based policies, the rule of law and the involvement of the private sector.
“We also hope that the private sector will continue to be strengthened in Zimbabwe and we hope that if we combine this with our government’s programmes like USAid, we can support local farmers and improve livelihoods,” Nichols said.
The sourced equipment was handed over to local banks which will select the farmers who will benefit from the programme — based on their track record.
“The facility is worth US$51 million and will unlock 1 300 tractors, 80 combine harvesters, 600 planters, 200 Disc Harrows, 100 boom sprayers and 100 trailers.
“This John Deere mechanisation facility will also help ensure the success of our agriculture recovery plan, which is meant to ensure that Zimbabwe achieves self-sufficiency in the production of cereals.
“It is commendable that John Deere has appointed a local agent, Afgri Zimbabwe, to ensure that the equipment is well maintained,” Mnangagwa said.
“Under the recovery plan, it is envisaged that 500 capable farmers with a proven track record in cereal production will be contracted.
“These farmers will be supported through access to irrigation infrastructure development, mechanisation and input support as well as enhanced extension services,” he added.