BY SILAS NKALA
GREEN Afrique Technologies, a Zimbabwean firm making bold moves into the forex spinning horticultural sector, exported its first 420kg of granadilla fruit to the United Kingdom last week, marking an important step in its long-held ambition to build a multimillion dollar business from its base in Bulawayo.
“Our first fruits left Robert Mugabe International Airport for the United Kingdom on Wednesday last week,” Anglistone Sibanda, chief executive officer at Green Afrique Technologies, told businessdigest this week.
“We will be shipping 420kg per week for now while other farmers (working in partnership with the firm) are growing. Our target is to ship 100 tonnes per week from April 2022 and bring in about US$150 000 per week into Zimbabwe,” he noted.
If achieved, these export volumes translate into annual revenues of about US$7,8 million, enough to transform small scale farmers being targeted under the project into self-sustaining entrepreneurs.
“We are putting 100 hectares under passion fruit (granadilla) in Binga in partnership with the Community Trust and we are looking at setting up a juicing plant in Dinde in the future to create a local economic development hub. At full scale the project will rake in millions of foreign currency into the country, creating employment,” Sibanda, a pastor with Everlasting Gospel of Christ Church in Bulawayo, said.
Passion fruit is the South African name for Granadilla. It has been a long journey for Sibanda, who told businessdigest that he was introduced to granadilla farming when he spent two years in the United States of America, pursuing his studies.
On return, Green Afrique Technologies partnered another farmer, Ian Ferguson to embark on the project. Under the strategy being pursued by Green Afrique Technologies, a national outgrower programme would be rolled out nationwide, grooming small-scale farmers and giving them financial support to expand operations and enhance returns.
The firm is targeting to clinch deals with at least one hundred small-scale farmers across Zimbabwe, each of them being funded to grow granadillas on farmland extending over 200 hectares cumulatively, thereby building one of Zimbabwe’s most recent successful horticultural operations.
Each hectare is projected to yield 50 tonnes of fruits annually, Sibanda told businessdigest. At least 95% of the fruits will be shipped to the international markets, with the remainder processed into juice for the domestic market.
“Passion fruit farming is a lucrative agri-business venture that is a bit capital intensive but highly rewarding,” Sibanda said.
“It has transformed lives in Kenya and Uganda with the young people being the main actors in the value chain which is what we are doing in Zimbabwe. There is great appreciation and uptake on the venture particularly from Zimbabweans based in the diaspora who appreciate the value of the fruits,” Sibanda said.
“We are under pressure to deliver to the market, which has been demanding the Zimbabwean products due to our organic approach in production, our climatic conditions and good soils. We are working hard setting up local economic development hubs with the Binga one being the first of the many that are coming throughout the country. We are also selecting some of our farmers and looking into giving them blueberry and young berry seedlings to grow them alongside passion fruit. We believe in sustainable strategic smart partnerships for development and the new model that does not exploit the locals but supports them and collaborates with them to create local economies, jobs and sustainable development. To date about 70 farmers across the country have signed up and we still need 30 more to get to 100 initial farmers, then scale up in our next phase and eventually get to 500 farmers doing high value crops, value add and export,” he said.
“Passion fruit is extremely lucrative to an extent that out of an investment capital of around US$300 to US$5 000, the turnover after just six months can go up to US$60 000 from a projected yield of 42 tonnes. The US$$60 000 turnover is expected to be perennial as the vines keep producing for up to four years,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s horticultural sector has been slowly making its way back following a plunge in output that hit the industry in the aftermath of agrarian reforms during the early 2000s, official data showed recently.
At its peak in the 1990s, the sector generated about US$140 million per annum. But output declined significantly after the late former president Robert Mugabe led a campaign to take land from corporations and former white commercial farmers and redistributed it to locals.
The transformation was not backed by funding and crucial technical expertise required to sustain horticultural farming, leading to the marked slowdown, according to experts.
But last month, the government said following years of a slowdown, it had been working with the private sector to rebuild capacities that will increase production and output.