Russia is keen on further expanding its footprint in Zimbabwe’s business circles and has cast its eyes on agriculture, promising to set up vast equipment assembly plants at a knock down cost.
There is a growing demand for agricultural produce in Russia, which is under sanctions from the European Union and has in turn imposed an embargo on basic foods, as well as meat and many other products, from Western countries.
The company will also ensure that an assembly plant is built in Zimbabwe to supply the African markets
Russia is seeking alternative markets and products subject to the one year embargo on beef, pork, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheese, milk and other dairy products from the US, Canada, the European Union, Norway and Australia.
Setting up an agricultural base in Zimbabwe might help mitigate food shortages.
On Monday, a 12 member Russian delegation, comprising of technical expects, led by Igor Avakumo, pitched proposals to their Zimbabwean counterparts.
The proposals range from setting up an agricultural equipment manufacturing plant, citrus production, food processing, water purification, veterinary education, poultry and production of vegetable seeds.
The head of the Russian delegation, Avakumo said Zimbabwe may bridge the food shortage gap.
“We do not plant much of our citrus in Russia because we have a small vegetative season, but we need citrus more, so Zimbabwe may come and fill in the gap and be key in terms of supply,” he said.
“Russia is one of the major global suppliers of agricultural equipment, we manufacture tractors and combine harvesters, we are ready to sell tractors and these combine harvesters to Zimbabwe.
“The company will also ensure that an assembly plant is built in Zimbabwe to supply the African markets, the prices we offer are 15% less compared to competitors such as John Deere and Massey Ferguson tractors.”
Russia, like China, has strong political ties with Zimbabwe, which began when Moscow helped train independence fighters in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 2008 Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution by Western countries to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Presently, Russia’s major investment in Zimbabwe is a joint-venture diamond and gold mining company in eastern Zimbabwe, DTZ-OZGEO, and Moscow is also planning a joint platinum mining operation outside the capital Harare.
Joseph Made, the Zimbabwean Agriculture minister said the southern African country stood to benefit from the Russian proposal.
Zimbabwe’s beef industry has been struggling since the European Union (EU) banned meat imports from the African nation in 2001, following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.