The European Union has set aside 31 million euro to boost sugarcane farming by resettled small-holder farmers in the Lowveld through the Zimbabwe National Sugar Adaptation Strategy (ZNSAS).The strategy seeks to restore sugarcane output to pre-2002 levels in Zimbabwe before the imposition of the illegal sanctions by the West.
At least 11 million euro have already been used to rehabilitate 2 000 hectares of sugarcane fields owned by 125 Chipiwa resettled farmers at Mkwasine Estates.
A further 5,8 million euro is being used to rehabilitate the 34,5 km long Nandi-Mkwasine railway line that links Mkwasine Estates with sugarcane mills at Triangle and Hippo Valley.
Upon its completion, the railway line will move an estimated 700 000 tonnes of cane per annum.
Funding by the EU under ZNSAS will also help most resettled farmers to produce 100 tonnes of raw cane per hectare beginning with the 2014/ 15 season, up from a low 40 tonnes/ha which is not economically viable.
This will see Zimbabwe coming closer to producing about 640 000 tonnes of sugar per annum, which is the milling capacity of the two mills at Hippo Valley and Triangle.
Speaking during the handover of medical equipment at Chiredzi General Hospital hospital funded by the EU under ZNSAS last Friday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made, hailed the EU and Tongaat Hulett for assisting resettled sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld.
In a speech read on his behalf by Cde Davis Marapira, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for Cropping, Dr Made said the investment by the EU into the local sugarcane farming sector was in line with the country’s development plans under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation(Zim-Asset).
“Today, we are gathered to recognise and appreciate the support the EU provided to the sugar sector through the Zimbabwe National Sugar Adaptation Strategy amounting to 31,4 million.
“Sugar is a very important crop which sustains livelihoods of over 200 000 people living in this part of the country, the Lowveld,” he said.
Dr Made said besides making Zimbabwe’s sugar competitive in the European market, EU support under ZNSAS would restore the viability of hundreds of resettled out-grower farmers whose yields had dipped to critical levels.
“I am informed that during the current (2013/ 14) agricultural season, these farmers achieved yields of 66 tonnes up from 40 tonnes/ha before the ZNSAS, earning them a net income of US$17 500 per farmer per annum.
“The yield is set to increase to 100 tonnes/ha during the forthcoming 2014/ 15 season, this is quite a commendable improvement, “said Dr Made.
He said the EU support had also unlocked investment by other players, with Tongaat Hulett following Brussels’ footsteps by embarking on the rehabilitation of 6 000 ha of cane fields at Mkwasine, Hippo Valley and Triangle estates owned by resettled farmers.
ZNSAS was approved by Government in 2006 with the EU providing funding to support the local sugar industry to adapt to changes in the bloc’s previously preferential pricing sugar regime, with a view to enhancing competitiveness of the local industry on the international markets.
Ultimately, the EU hopes that ZNSAS will help Zimbabwe’s sugar production to hit the one million tonne mark after sustained decline in production that started in 2002.
At Chiredzi General Hospital, more than five EU envoys led by the bloc’s head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia, witnessed the handover of various facilities funded under ZNSAS to the tune of 360 000.
Among the new facilities were an operation theatre and laboratory equipment and an incinerator.
There was also refurbishment of the hospital mortuary together with male, female and children’s recovery wards.
Storage water tanks were also installed to ease water shortages at the hospital, which services nearly 200 000 people in the district.