The Sunday Mail
India has expressed willingness to assist Zimbabwe in the area of farm mechanisation amid revelations Asia’s third largest economy is particularly keen to facilitate procurement of the Sonalika brand of tractors, cultivators, and other farm implements.
In an interview with Sunday Mail Business on the sidelines of the recently held Zimbabwe Agricultural Show and during a tour of the local Sonalika dealer’s stand, Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Rungsung Masakui revealed underlying ongoing agricultural discussions with the Government that include efforts to secure funding from a Japanese institution for the importation from India of more Sonalika implements.
Beneficial relationships between the two countries according to the ambassador, obtain at two levels of Government to Government and private sector to Government, with the goal of improving the livelihoods of both countries’ populations.
This comes as Government is pressing ahead with farm mechanisation, which recently saw it appoint Agribank to manage its US$52 million Belarus farm equipment facility as well as the US$50 million John Deree tractors facility for farm mechanisation.
The bank had previously been appointed to administer the Pedstock centre pivots facility for the identification and management of phase two beneficiaries amounting to US$10,5 million and includes 80 centre pivots. Under the first phase of the Pedstock facility more than US$6,5 million pivots were given to farmers.
“As far as Government to Government projects are concerned, we have assured assistance to the Government of Zimbabwe in the agricultural sector, but it is at a proposal stage that is being processed by the Government of Zimbabwe. It has been moving very slow but has not been forwarded to the embassy of India as a proposal yet
“Besides the Government to Government projects we have got projects like this (supply of Sonalika farming implements), which is facing financing from Japan to source machinery from India which I think is the way forward. The machines have been proven as reliable in Zimbabwe.
“I have got information through interaction with senior offices of the Government that they have had the Sonalika brand of tractors for a long time with some now 15 years old, but still working in the fields. These are proven machines, which can easily be sourced from India when finances are available, and we are hoping towards that,” said Ambassador Masakui.
More to farm mechanisation, the ambassador expressed great interest by many Indian farmers to come into Zimbabwe and invest in the agricultural sector through rice and lentil production both for the restoration of Zimbabwe’s food basket status and for exports back to India where the crops are in high demand. Zimbabwe has vast tracts of underutilised and idle lands, which are suitable for rice production and other agricultural practices.
“There are also other interested parties from India who want to come into the agriculture sector in the sense of cultivating rice and lentils but not just confined to these two crops because the lentils are highly demanded in India.
“Being a hugely vegetarian community in India, we use lentils excessively as a source of protein so we import from Canada, Australia and other countries. So, if they come here that will create a lot of employment that will add value to the economy and at the same time becomes an export to India. It is of mutual benefit.
“These investors will also make some rice contribution to Zimbabwe, as it is importing rice to feed the population and improve the economy. Some of the Indian companies based here are also trying to value add by completing the chain of the produce, processing it and making it more profitable.
“We have seen a lot of potential in Zimbabwe earlier, before you assumed the role as the food basket of Southern Africa. We are here as the private sector and private companies from India as well as the government to assist in restoring that distorted status of being a food basket in Southern Africa,” said Ambassador Masakui.
Agriculture is perhaps, the most vital driver of the Zimbabwean economy employing about 60-70% of the Zimbabwean population and contributes about 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to statistics released by Zimtrade. The sector further contributes about 40 percent of the country’s export earnings.