Massive Zhovhe Farm project starts bearing fruit Toppick Investments, a local company which owns the farm, is targeting to increase the number of trees planted with an additional 115 000 trees.

Thupeyo MuleyaBeitbridge Bureau

THE massive citrus project at the integrated Zhovhe Farm, some 80km west of the Beitbridge border town, has gathered momentum with the first harvest from some of the 230 000 orange trees expected later this year.

Toppick Investments, a local company which owns the farm, is targeting to increase the number of trees planted with an additional 115 000 trees.

The company has set up a highly integrated farm using water from one of the country’s 10 biggest water bodies, Zhovhe Dam.

Toppick Investments chief executive officer, Mr Danisa Moyo, said they imported most of the propagating material in batches from South Africa.

“So far we have about 230 000 planted trees covering 800ha and we are expecting to plant 115 000 more which we have already purchased,” he said.

“Our first harvest will be this year on the big trees that we planted in April 2021.

“We have so far employed about 240 workers and expect to employ about 60 more people for our new orchards which we are expecting to plant this year.”

The planting of the orange trees, he said, had been done in five phases.

These include Phase 1, with 180 hectares planted in April 2021, Phase 2 covering 220 hectares planted in November 2021, Phase 3 covering 60 hectares and the trees planted in February 2022. 

The fourth and fifth phases covering 280 hectares and 60 hectares were planted in August last year and they also planted lemon trees on 80 hectares.

 “We have planted orange trees of the Benny Valencia, Turkey, and Midnight varieties. In terms of lemons we have the eureka species,” said Mr Moyo.

 He said they will introduce more citrus varieties in the near future, adding that they had installed a micro jet citrus irrigation system.

 Mr Moyo said they were looking at producing more citrus products for both the local and export markets.

 He said they intend to set up a solar power plant to augment power supplies at the farm and construct a modern sorting shed for grading the citrus products before taking them to the market.

 Since starting operations around 2015, the company has acquired 17 irrigation pivots to enhance crop production throughout the year.

 Citrus production has been growing gradually in Beitbridge district with the small holder farmers introducing it at their communal irrigation project some 100km south west of the border town in 2011.

The 189 communal farmers at the irrigation-driven citrus project are now producing an average of 700 tonnes of oranges per season to supply the Schweppes Holdings-run Beitbridge Juice Plant (BBJ).

It is understood that the fruits are being sold at the local juice factory at between US$0.15 and US$0.19 per kg.

Additionally, three schools in Ward 8, including Shashe primary and secondary and Mopani primary are part of the project.

The schools have an average enrolment of 300 pupils.

According to recent farming experts’ projections, the production of citrus has dropped from 10 000 hectares to above 5 000 hectares due to climate change and relayed economic dynamics.

As it stands, Beitbridge produces export quality oranges, grapefruit and lemons from nearly 3 000 hectares of land used by commercial, communal and irrigation farmers.

The Beitbridge weather conditions present a fertile ground for the production of large, sweet fruits with high juice quality.

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