Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Reporter
Plans to export citrus products to China are at an advanced stage as Government intensifies efforts to pursue low hanging fruits while awaiting bigger projects to take off, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo has said.
Speaking after meeting Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun in Harare yesterday, Dr Moyo said an agreement was expected to be signed soon.
“The processes are almost being concluded and we are hoping that there is going to be an agreement soon, which is going to see these fruits not only being exported, but also being developed here,” said Dr Moyo.
Dr Moyo said this development followed deliberations between the Government of Zimbabwe and Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce during his visit last month from which it was agreed that the two countries can explore other areas of cooperation with immediate benefits while waiting for bigger projects to take off.
“Recently, we had the Vice Minister of Commerce from China who came in and our deliberations there were specifically, that whilst we are going to be still working on certain major projects which are strategic to Zimbabwe, but whose maturity stage takes a long time, we are saying that we must focus on practical projects which are low hanging fruits that our people can benefit from immediately.
“It is from that approach that we agreed to have pragmatic projects that are going to be taking place,” said Dr Moyo.
He said the citrus project was one such kind of a project, which China and Zimbabwe are working on.
Currently, Zimbabwe is exporting about 30 000 tonnes of citrus fruits, mainly to the European Union and the Middle East markets. According to the Citrus Export Growers Association, growth potential was very high as most trees were still young. Growth forecast is expected to be around 5 percent.
Ambassador Guo said the success of this project is going to mark a new beginning in cooperation between China and Zimbabwe in the agricultural sector.
“We are going to enlarge the agriculture products export from Zimbabwe and hopefully we will be able to import citrus from Zimbabwe to the Chinese market in the near future.
“If we succeed in doing so, it will be a very good beginning of the cooperation in the agriculture area between China and Zimbabwe,” said Ambassador Guo.
He said both the Zimbabwean and Chinese officials were working flat out to make this project happen.
“We are still going through some procedures and both China and Zimbabwean side are speeding up all the necessary procedures,” he said.
Apart from the citrus partnership, Ambassador Guo said they also discussed other bilateral issues, which include enhancing trade relations, support which the Chinese Government provided to Zimbabwe during Cyclone Idai and the drought, which has affected some parts of the country.
“As a friend, partner, brother of Zimbabwe we are doing our best to support the developments of Zimbabwe so we have also discussed some other projects concerning more support to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zimbabwe and China have signed more than a dozen landmark projects.
The deals are mainly under the framework of the Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative, where China has provided US$60 billion for African countries.
Zimbabwe has so far tapped an estimated US$3 billion from the fund.
Most of the projects are at various stages of implementation.