Cletus Mushanawani in Mutare
AGRICULTURE concern, Organic Africa yesterday commissioned the biggest herbal tea factory in Southern Africa in Penhalonga just outside Mutare.
Commissioning the multi-million dollar Southern Africa’s Herbal Tea Factory, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister, Douglas Karoro, said the commissioning was a sign that the private sector was now focusing on producing products that are informed by grounded research.
“With earnings of more than US$50 billion, 50 times higher than the earnings of farmers from tobacco worldwide, production of organic herbal tea offers a unique opportunity for the local farming sector to achieve the envisaged US$8.2 billion agriculture economy by 2025.
“It is through these efforts that the agriculture sector meaningfully contributes to the Economic Stability and Growth cluster of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1). Market development needs to be focused on smallholder farmers if we are to achieve the objectives of improved income and empowering the society, since 70 percent of the farmers are based in rural areas. To integrate them, we need to develop innovative approaches,” said Deputy Minister Karoro.
Organic Africa has a number of activities which it is working with the communities and small-scale farmers in enhancing inclusive value chain development and building community resilience.
These include 5 000 small-scale farmer families as out-growers in the production of rosella in Mbire and Binga and 3 000 wild collector families that collect baobab fruits in Manicaland, Mashonaland East (Mudzi and Mutoko), Mashonaland Central (Rushinga), Masvingo (marula and ximnia (tsvanzva).
The rosella that is produced by the out-growers is extremely drought resistant and gives income to the 5 000 out-growers even in years of drought.
In Mbire, Organic Africa has a partnership with ARDA Mushumbi Pools where it has also invested considerably into the local communities in the production of herbal teas.
The company also drilled 10 boreholes for safe drinking water for the participating families.
“Organic Africa has also a partnership with ARDA in cooperation with a local company on the parastatal’s estate in Mushumbi where high value crops are produced in one of the most marginalised areas of the country. Currently, 140 hectares have been developed on the estate producing 200 metric tonnes of crops for export. An additional 300ha will be developed,” said Deputy Minister Karoro.
In view of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Agriculture ministry has developed the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan (HRGP) aimed at increasing food and nutrition security, exports, household income and reduce imports.
“Tea is one of the nine value chains selected as key to this initiative and the idea is to ultimately produce Sector Development Plan Agreements which are then signed by Government and the private sector. It is important to note that while huge market opportunities for tea are there and continue to grow in the unforeseeable future, our farmers should embrace compliance to set standards as they allow the produce to access high quality and high margin international export markets,” said Deputy Minister Karoro.
Speaking at the same occasion, Switzerland Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, Ambassador Niculin Jager, said businesses focusing on the niche of organic food have a brighter future.
“Currently, they are very encouraging initiatives here in Manicaland that are aiding local farmers to access the Swiss market with organic coffee through the Nespresso/Nestlé Reviving Origins Programme.
“The project is not only putting Zimbabwe coffee farmers back on track after years of suppressed production, but is providing evidence that the country has vast potential in supplying the export sector with high quality produce.
“Swiss companies in all fields of investment typically have a longer-term perspective when engaging in any sector, including those in the organic food and beverage sectors,” said Ambassador Jager.
The event was also graced by Germany Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Udo Volz, Organic Africa chief executive officer, Mr Dominikus Collenberg, Arda board chairman, Mr Ivan Craig, ZimTrade chief executive officer, Mr Allan Majuru and other diginitaries.