Indigenous sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld want to help the nation achieve its Vision 2030 goals by opening a value-addition plant at Rutenga Growth Point in Mwenezi where the Government is setting up a dry port.
One of the biggest cane farmers’ associations in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association (ZSDA), has already formally applied for land at Rutenga to build a plant to value-add sugar and related by-products for export to earn the country hard currency.
The association joins the growing list of investors in areas such as meat processing, transport and logistics, among other sectors, jostling to set up shop at the sprawling growth point following its designation as a dry port.
Rutenga is strategically located to house a dry port as the growth point is linked to the northern and southern half of the country by rail, and is also being situated on the gateway to South Africa via the Harare-Beitbridge highway.
Speaking during an occasion in Chiredzi to mark the first anniversary of the association’s executive led by Mr Elisha Tamirepi, ZSDA vice chair Mrs Bernadette Chipembere Tamba underscored the importance of diversification by cane farmers to contribute towards aggregate growth of the national economy in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision to transform the country into an upper middle income economy.
Mrs Tamba and her executive, who took over the reins of ZSDA from long-serving and founding association chair, Mr Admore Veterai following polls last year, hinted on several plans by the association to make cane farmers vital cogs in the national economy.
“Our aim is to build a plant to produce ethanol and even cattle feed — all cane by products — for the export market, taking advantage of the rail and road link at Rutenga. We want to take advantage of the railway line to export our products either via Mozambique or South Africa because Rutenga is strategically located,” she said.
While ZSDA operations have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the association was upbeat about prospects of the sugar industry with focus fixed on ramping up members’ average yield per hectare to 110 tonnes.
“Our association is providing fuel to executive members to make sure they can move around farms in Mkwasine, Hippo Valley and Triangle to monitor members on compliance with Covid-19 regulations by making sure workers have adequate protective clothing and maintain social distancing,” said Mrs Tamba.