Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
THOUSANDS of farmers in lower Nyanga are set to benefit from an out-grower scheme in which they will produce unique tomato brands and various fruits for beneficiation at Best Fruit Processor (BBJ) (Pvt) Limited. The company is a joint venture between Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) and Beitbridge Juicing (Pvt) Ltd.
The model for contract growing for fruits is based on a mix of community irrigation schemes like Nyakomba, Nyamaropa, Nyabombwe and Nyarumvurwe, small-holder farmers as well as a few commercial farmers. The company is working with farmer-groups to set up mango, orange, guava, naartjies and passion plantations to complement existing plantations. It then procures raw fruits from small-scale farmers and processes them into purees and paste for both local and export markets.
Nyanga Rural District Council chairperson, Councillor Moses Gutu is spearheading the initiative that involves all traditional leaders of resource poor communal farmers in Nyanga North to value add to their agricultural produce to derive maximum economic benefits. Cllr Gutu, who toured Best Fruit Processors plant in Norton together with traditional leaders, farmers and extension workers from Nyanga, last Thursday, said tomato and fruit beneficiation would increase growers’ earnings.
He said the majority of farmers were losing keen interest in tomato and fruit production due to poor pricing and alleged manipulation by buyers.
“Our challenge is to mobilise local farmers to produce enough tomatoes and fruits to meet the demand as a start. This will require serious coordination in the district, and given the magnitude of poverty in lower Nyanga, almost every household should be taken on board to produce tomatoes and all kinds of fruits to meet the tonnage required by the processor,” said Cllr Gutu.
“The plant processes mangoes, guavas, passion fruit and tomatoes for local and export markets. Nyanga has the potential and all along farmers were failing to get someone who processes and add value to their fruits to enhance revenue. This is the starting point and this beneficiation scheme will show farmers that they stand to benefit if they proceed in this particular direction. This is an incentive to our farmers and they should diversify into these fruits because there is guarantee of a market.
“We need a creative approach to agriculture in Nyanga. We cannot continue with the business as usual approach because we need to change our lives. The weather vagaries are playing havoc with tradition maize and small grain production and we must diversify into new fruit crops. There is no better way of motivating peasant farmers than to venture into new crops and create markets for them,” he said.
Cllr Gutu said the initiative was anchored on the belief that the productive engine of agriculture rests on small-scale farmers and with the right training and vision could help to multiply the productive potential of their vibrant business minds. Best Fruit Processors, he said, would be responsible for training farmers that would take their produce to the tomato processing plant.
He said the processing of tomatoes was in line with Zim-Asset’s cluster of value addition and beneficiation.
“This project is strategically economic and will unravel great economic potential for Nyanga.
“With the right mentorship, we cannot fail to produce fruits which are abundant and were rotting as farmers were not making money out of them due to lack of market. The dream and vision is to have our own processing plant in Nyanga to add value and stop exporting our fruits in their raw form. This can change the complexion of Manicaland. We need to identify abundant resource and support the communities to get something out of them to transform their lives,” he said.
The Norton-based fruit processing plant has an annual production capacity of 30 000 tonnes of raw fruit which is processed into purees and pastes which are aseptically packaged and therefore preservative-free. ARDA chairman, Mr Basil Nyabadza, said the company had a budget to out-grow mangoes, guavas, granadillas, oranges and lemons to start producing various fruit drinks.
“The output is for both domestic consumption and a strong export market with focus on the SADC region,” Mr Nyabadza said.
He said the processing of fruits and tomato paste was aimed at primarily reducing imports while at the same time increasing the export base.