Chinese US$2,5m citrus project on cards

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BY VANESSA GONYE

ZIMBABWE is set to benefit from a US$2,5 million dollar project targeting the fruit industry value chain bankrolled by the China and Zimbabwe Agricultural Company.

The development seeks to further transform Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector which, has for years, been on a downward spiral.

The investment will be implemented 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 a seed breeding base in Mazowe would start off with citrus production.

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

He said in the next five years, five million trees would have been distributed from the breeding base, with a minimum of 3 000 hectares earmarked under the project.

“So far we have constructed 12 000 square meters of isolation greenhouses with plans on course to invest in testing equipment. We will apply for a licence to train agricultural experts,” he said.

Under the project, local farmers on contract will grow apples, grapes, bananas, peaches and pears in addition to citrus production.

“To guarantee viability of the project, farmers interested will need to have their soil tested, facilities looked at and sign contracts among other requirements,” Haiyang said.
The project is also expected to cascade to the southern African region as China looks further afield.

The firm has in the past three years funded and led three delegations from Zimbabwe’s Agriculture ministry to China to investigate 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 with the establishment of the first commercial citrus estate. The citrus industry in Zimbabwe gave birth to the locally produced and world-class standard drink, Mazoe Orange crush.

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 counter seasonal fruits. Chinese middle-class consumers are also on the lookout for premium high quality fruits, making the citrus sector highly lucrative.