President Mnangagwa yesterday commissioned a US$20 million edible oil refinery plant in Mahusekwa Mashonaland East, where he said global shocks that have caused food shortages and related challenges in many countries have driven Zimbabwe’s desire to produce adequate food for its citizens.
The President implored farmers to take advantage of the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (NEAPS) and the Second Republic’s rural industrialisation drive and access inputs for strategic crops whose production is being supported by the Government through accelerating the construction of dams and existing schemes to increase size of land under irrigation.
President Mnangagwa has declared that his administration will drive rural industrialisation, which will see industrial activity being launched in rural areas based on factor endowments in each rural space. Such endowments become the definers and drivers of the industrial activity envisaged in any one area.
The objective of rural industrialisation is to stem rural-urban migration. Government has already laid the preparatory groundwork for the transformation through, among many other things, establishing tertiary institutions, including vocational training centres in rural areas and intensifying the rural electrification programme.
The plant, set up by Tanzanian registered multinational company, Mount Meru Millers, will process soya beans, sunflower and cotton into edible oil, a development which will see the local community benefiting in terms of employment creation, among other benefits.
The firm, which already has presence in 14 countries, came to invest in Zimbabwe as a result of President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement efforts after it responded to a presentation he made in Dubai at a business forum in 2019 aimed at courting investors.
In his address, President Mnangagwa implored edible oil value chain players to support the production of soya beans, cotton and sunflower by contracting local farmers to guarantee availability of raw materials.
“This should in turn see a decrease in our reliance on imported crude edible oil to boost our national requirements while at the same time supporting local smallholder farmers,” said President Mnangagwa.
“This multi-pronged strategy has become imperative, more so as climate change and mandatory bio-fuel production in major edible oil producing countries have disrupted edible oil availability and supply chains.
“Additionally, global shocks have exacerbated the need for self-sufficiency in the production of feed-stock into edible oil value chains.”
Explaining how Mount Meru, which is now headquartered in Dubai, came to invest in Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwa said he addressed a Business Forum in Dubai in 2019 that was attended predominantly by people from Western capitals.
He said Mount Meru shareholders, represented by Mr Atui Mittal, was one of the few people who responded and expressed interest to invest in Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa said there were subsequent meetings held both in Dubai and in Harare, resulting in them eventually establishing business.
“I promised this young man that whatever challenge he might encounter, my Government will support him,” said President Mnangagwa, to a rousing applause from the audience.
He said the new plant, with a capacity to produce 250 tonnes of soya edible oil per day, will help increase its supply to the local market and argument the local content policy.
He called for more investors to come to Zimbabwe leveraging on the country’s natural resources endowment and in line with the engagement and re-engagement policy.
“My Government will continue to pursue the ease of doing business reforms to attract more investments, focusing on the rural areas, in line with our developmental thrust of leaving no one and no place behind,” said President Mnangagwa.
The nature of foreign direct investment witnessed since the advent of the Second Republic is unprecedented as it was testimony to the success of the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” philosophy, said President Mnangagwa.
He implored local authorities across the country to play their part for the accelerated establishment of rural industry systems and the modernisation and industrialisation of the economy.
“Appropriate land and infrastructure as well as realistic fees, and license charges must advance this agenda. The provision of residential stands must be in sync with that of industrial land.
“The present mismatch is unsustainable and must be redressed to ensure decent work and employment opportunities for our people, where they live,” said President Mnangagwa.
He encouraged the country’s productive sectors to enlarge their markets through utilisation of regional blocs such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, Sadc and Comesa, among others, to which Zimbabwe is a member.
The plant, said President Mnangagwa, was testimony to the success of the “Zimbabwe is open for business” philosophy and the engagement and re-engagement policy and the conducive economic environment prevailing in the country.
Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, said the investment by Mount Meru Millers was as a result of good policies by the Second Republic.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution responsible for Mashonaland East province, Aplonia Munzverengi, said the oil refinery plant showed that investors had confidence in Zimbabwe.
She added that the establishment of such a plant in rural Seke district resonated with the devolution agenda.
Earlier on, Mr Mittal reminisced the day he met President Mnangagwa in Dubai where he said there was a lot of skepticism about Zimbabwe.
He said he was excited to invest in Zimbabwe and wanted to invest about US$100 million.
“We will support a lot of value chain in Zimbabwe. With your vision and leadership, we hope that we will employ about 1 000 people here,” said Mr Mittal.
Tanzanian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Professor Emanuel Mbennah said Mount Meru Millers was a tried and tested firm, ranking as one of the highest contributors of taxes in Tanzania.
Traditional leaders and villagers yesterday said they were excited by the coming in of Mount Merry Millers saying it’s presence will encourage them to plant small grains such as soya beans, sunflower and cotton.
They said they look forward to have their children employed given that the company indicated it would eventually employ 1 000 workers.
A villager, Mr Obert Magombedze from Mahusekwa, said he will soon diversify his gardening project to include soya beans.
“Traditionally I grow maize and in some instances vegetables. With the coming of this company I will now include soya beans because there is now a ready market for that crop,” said Mr Magombedze.
Another villager, Mrs Vimbai Mutenherwa, said she looked forward to have her sons employed at the firm.
“Our sons and daughters have been going to Harare to get piece jobs. Sometimes they get the jobs while most of the times they will be here doing nothing.
“They are quite hardworking. With the coming of this company, we expect them to get employment.”
A teacher at Dunotter Primary School commended the company for providing pupils with supplementary feeding.
“The company management has pledged to provide our pupils with supplementary food. This will help greatly as they will concentrate on their education,” said the teacher.
Mashonaland East provincial Chiefs Council chairperson, Chief Nechombo, commended President Mnangagwa for being a listening leader who allowed such as huge firm to set up in the rural area.
“The President has walked the talk on rural industrialisation, we are quite grateful as traditional leaders,” said Chief Nechombo.