Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter—
CHINA has handed over 9 500 tonnes of urea fertiliser to Zimbabwe amid indications that the Asian economic giant intends to unveil a $4 billion package for the agricultural sector. Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Huang Ping handed over the fertiliser to Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made on behalf of his Government.
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The fertiliser will be distributed to farmers under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
“Chinese institutions are considering a $5 billion project of which $4 billion will be for the agriculture sector, while $1 billion will go towards housing. We are also strengthening irrigation and mechanisation projects and would want to promote production of goods that have a ready market in China and locally,” Dr Made said.
Ambassador Huang confirmed discussions on the funding were underway. “We are still discussing and we do not want to shout about it,” he said. The fertiliser donated to Zimbabwe yesterday at the Grain Marketing Board’s Aspindale Depot in Harare, will capacitate farmers to boost production and recover from the negative effects of the 2015-16 El-Nino-induced drought.
The drought resulted in poor yields, hence the current food deficit. “I am grateful to the Government of the People’s Republic of China for their good gesture. The fertiliser will be put to good use under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme,” said Dr Made.
“This is expected to go a long way towards ensuring the success of the 2016-17 agricultural season through increased agricultural production and productivity.” Dr Made thanked the Chinese for supporting Government programmes in the agriculture sector.
These include the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre, secondment of Chinese agriculture experts, technical assistance in capacity building programmes in China and joint venture farming and mega projects currently under consideration.
“I extend an invitation to the Chinese Government to consider partnering Zimbabwe in localising fertiliser production,” Dr Made said. Ambassador Huang said the donation was a reflection of the strong ties between China and Zimbabwe.
He said China and Zimbabwe supported each other economically and politically even on international fora. Zimbabwe received 27 500 tonnes of rice from China in September to cushion people from drought.
“We also have undertaken resuscitation of boreholes and irrigation projects. China invested $14 million towards the construction of the Gwebi Technology Demonstration Centre and we have agricultural experts working in different departments. Our friendship and relationship is not only limited to agriculture but also extends to politics,” said Mr Huang.
“President Mugabe visited China and Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Zimbabwe. These exchange visits lifted the relationship to another height,” he said. The Chinese will construct the new parliament building which is now at the design tendering.
China also assisted in the construction of the Victoria Falls Airport and is working on the Kariba South hydropower extension project expected to inject 150 MW into the national grid next year. “We hope more people will continue to benefit from the co-operation of the two nations,” he said.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Sydney Sekeramayi said the Chinese gesture was welcome and that it came timely when the season had just begun.
“The fertiliser will enhance our preparedness for the 2016/17 season. Last year the drought constrained us to produce enough food. China has capacitated us to ensure we are able to produce food and regain our status as the bread-basket of Africa,” said Dr Sekeramayi.
“The Meteorological Services Department has focasted normal to above normal rains, which are ideal for a bumper harvest and the fertiliser will assist us. I am grateful to Dr Made for his efforts to engage China and secure fertiliser for our farmers. We are thankful to the ambassador for the continued support,” he said.
Zimbabwe and China are all weather friends from the days of the liberation struggle.