Tongaat decries production decline

Tawanda Mangoma in Chiredzi
Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe has bemoaned the marked decline in production at Mkwasine Sugar Estate here amid reports that outgrower farmers have failed to meet the target by almost 50 percent.

Speaking during the commissioning of the rehabilitated 35-kilometre Nandi-Mkwasine railway line in Chiredzi on Wednesday, Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe managing director Mr Sydney Mtsambiwa said it was disheartening to note that farmers were failing to meet the expected yields.

“In 1964, Mkwasine Estate was producing at least 850 000 (tonnes), up to 900 000 tonnes of sugarcane. This season, farmers only managed 500 000 hectares, which is about 50 percent less of the production capacity,” he said.

Mr Mutsambiwa challenged farmers in Mkwasine to take advantage of the rehabilitated railway line, which offers discounted cane transportation rates.

“We have the water, land; our dams are full and we have the irrigation infrastructure, hence we anticipate that our yields will improve. Such a project in financial terms means at full throttle, when we produce 800 000 tonnes, we look forward to get 100 000 tonnes of raw sugar. With our current price of around $527 per tonne of sugar, in a normal year, Mkwasine Estate should produce $57 million,” he said.

Mr Mutsambiwa said the sector faced a tough task to reclaim the lost glory.

“As you can see, NRZ has done its part in partnership with EU, the business sector is availing inputs and the farmer is expected to increase production per unit area,” he said.

Mr Mutsambiwa said with the completion of the Tokwe Mukosi Dam, where 25 000 hectares of irrigable land would be availed, the Lowveld has the potential to be the greenbelt of Zimbabwe.

“Approximately, of the 25 000 hectares to be developed, 10 000 hectares will be reserved for sugarcane. We must thank our Government for investing in the expansion of our agricultural sector,” he said.

EU representative Mr Thomas Opperer, who is head of economic cooperation and food security, said the bloc had to extend $37 million to help small-scale sugarcane farmers in Mkwasine after the deterioration of their yield.

“The EU responded to the deteriorating infrastructure and limited access to inputs by small-scale farmers and this had resulted in yield decline. In these challenging times, EU committed a total of $37 million to the farmers. The objective was to improve the channel of livelihoods for the farming community here,” he said.

Mkwasine farmers’ representative Mr Joel Masuku pledged the farmers’ commitment to improving their yield.

“As farmers, we are glad that the railway line has been rehabilitated. We promise to work extra hard to improve our yield to the levels, largely expected by Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe,” he said.

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