Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
ABOUT 40 investors have submitted bids to undertake a wider range of business activities at the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority through Public Private Partnerships.
Business plans were received from investors interested in dairy and livestock, maize, soya beans, timber, potatoes, apple and macadamia, chairman Mr Basil Nyabadza said.
“It is a full range of our normal agricultural activities and we have started reviewing the business plans we have received. Our target is to have serious economic activities at the estates before the start of next season,” Mr Nyabadza said.
ARDA, a state owned company owns 22 estates operating below capacity due to financial challenges. Some of its household estates include Katiyo Tea Estates in Manicaland and Arda Transau Estate which was allocated to diamond mining companies operating in Marange to relocate families affected by their mining activities.
Mr Nyabadza said the majority of the bids were received from locals who are in partnership with foreign investors.
“We have bids from abroad but partnering locals,” he said.
He said the revival of estates would ensure improved activity and job creation.
“There is economic activity at 80 percent of our estates although production levels are not at the scale we want, but through PPPs we should be able to improve production.”
The only viable estate is Chisumbanje where ARDA partnered a private company Macdom and Rating Investment to form the Green Fuel, an ethanol producing company.
The company has so far invested more than $300 million into the project since its inception in 2009. About $560 million would be spent on the construction of additional two plants with a combined capacity of 40 million litres of ethanol per month and $400 million on developing farm land measuring 40 000 hectares on ARDA’s vast estates. Presently, the company has put about 10 000 ha under sugar cane production.
ARDA estates were once a source of food security in the country. In January this year, Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Responsible for Crops and Mechanisation Davis Marapira has said the parastatal was facing serious financial challenges. ARDA has 22 farms with 98 000 hectares of arable land with an irrigable capacity of 19 000 hectares.
“We would want to resuscitate ARDA irrigation schemes to boost agricultural production. We are encouraging Arda management to come up with the public-private-partnerships to ensure all the land is utilised. We are in the process of carrying out feasibility studies at all ARDA estates for resuscitation. Government is also encouraging value addition of agricultural products similar to what is happening at the Chisumbanje where Green Fuel is producing ethanol,” said the deputy minister.
“The same should happen to wheat estates. We should produce flour on site,” he said.