About 10,000 farmers from Mashonaland and Matabeleland are set to benefit from the resuscitation of the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) processing plants in Norton and Esigodini under a partnership with cordial drinks manufacturer Schweppes Zimbabwe.
The two plants will be processing mangoes, guavas, passion fruit and tomatoes into puree for local and export markets.
The Norton plant is expected to start processing fruits and tomatoes in January and about 3,000 rural farmers especially women and youths from Zvimba, Kadoma, Chegutu, Norton, Chinamora, Kwekwe, Murewa and Goromonzi among other areas have been contracted to supply the fruits and tomatoes.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Joseph Made on Wednesday toured the resuscitated Norton plant and urged the private sector to complement the government’s efforts in reviving agriculture industry to provide a market for farmers produce.
He said this was in line with the 10-Point Plan enunciated by President Robert Mugabe which gave reference to the resuscitation of agriculture and beneficiation of the products.
Minister Made said the resuscitation of the two processing plants will provide motivation to the farmers who have been struggling to access markets for their produce.
“To get the plant going is critical and this will supplant inputs and also create employment. It is critical that farmers have a market that pays a fair price for their produce.
“Farmers already have knowledge. Once there is a demand, farmers will increase production. Farmers are already producing but the market is not there. There is a glut of tomatoes on the market,” he said.
Minister Made said the processing project was important in the horticulture that had been identified by the government as critical.
“Processing requires certain varieties. Farmers are ready to switch over and they should be told the correct varieties required. We believe there are sufficient trees to kick start the project,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe had a better environment in that farmers were producing clean food which is not genetically modified and this was required by the international market.
Arda chairman, Basil Nyabadza said the project was in line with the mandate of Arda which is to develop rural areas.
“Apart from creating employment, the programme will empower the local farmers to be competitive. Currently Zimbabwe is importing tomato paste but this project is going to see 70 percent of the products being exported.
“We are having talks with Italy so we can export tomato paste. We have a strong deal with Schweppes and all the farmers who have been stuck with their fruits and tomatoes will have a market,” he said.
Schweppes Zimbabwe managing director, Charles Msipa said the company’s business heavily relied on agriculture for feed stock and this project was going to promote the fruit value chain.
“We should be involved in the promotion of the fruit value chain for the success of our business. Our fortunes are integrally tied with the fortunes of agriculture,” he said.
Arda has resuscitated almost 50 percent of its estates that had been lying idle through joint ventures and public –private partnerships.