Mnangagwa basking in glory of American tractors

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IN a rare positive positive developmnent, Zimbabwe’s critical agricultural sector yesterday received a shot in the arm that will boost output and reduce poverty after the United States headquartered John Deere company rolled out a US$51 million farm mechanisation facility that will be spread across provinces.

John Deere is one of the biggest suppliers of farm implements in the world.

The facility by John Deere comes at a time when the embattled Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa, has been pursuing international engagement and re-engagement with all world nations in order to attract foreign direct investment.

It also comes as the Government has made agriculture transformation and the attainment of food self-sufficiency one of its key priorities.

Speaking at the launch of the mechanisation facility, the Mnangagwa said the programme that would be managed by local banks would go a long way in assisting farmers with the much-needed mechanisation solutions.

He said although he was initially sceptical, after a top official from John Deere visited him in 2018, the commencement of the project was gratifying evidence that Zimbabwe can do business with anyone.

“I feel greatly honoured to officiate at this important occasion which marks the launch of the John Deere Mechanisation Facility. By way of background, on November 7, 2018, I was pleased to receive the president of John Deere Agriculture Worldwide Mr Mark von Pentz, who paid me a courtesy call at my Munhumutapa Offices.

“It was during that occasion that he informed me about his company’s interest in partnering Zimbabwe in our mechanisation programme. I was sceptical at the time because they are based in America. I think you can appreciate the reason why, but I am extremely pleased that today we stand here two years down the line with evidence of a private sector from America cooperating with us in our endeavour to modernise our economy. For that, we need to send a message of gratitude to President Trump and his administration. I want to commend the team from both my Government and the John Deere management who helped in the consummation of this mechanisation facility.

Agriculture plays a central role in Zimbabwe’s economy through contributing 20 percent to the country’s GDP, 33 percent of formal employment, 65 percent of raw materials required in agro-industries, and it accounts for 70 percent of rural livelihood, the President said.

“As such, agriculture is a pathway out of poverty and a precondition for economic growth and prosperity of our country,” he said.

With agriculture playing such a vital role in Zimbabwe, it’s transformation, through mechanisation and modernisation is of paramount importance in order to ensure food self-sufficiency.

“Cognisant of the importance of the sector, my Government has made agriculture transformation and attainment of food security one of its key priorities. Hence, the launch of this facility is timely and part of the journey we embarked towards the realisation of these objectives. It further attests to the commitment by Government to work with various partners and investors, guided by the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra, to grow and prosper our economy so that our people enjoy better quality of life. The coming in of John Deere Agriculture Worldwide into the agriculture value chain also bears testimony to the success of our engagement and re-engagement policy,” said the President.

The John Deere facility through a local agent, Afgri Zimbabwe, will unlock 1 300 tractors, 80 combined harvesters, 600 planters, 200 disc harrows, 100 boom sprayers and 100 trailers.

The facility will be utilised mainly by the 5 000 farmers under the National Agriculture Recovery Plan, while the selection of beneficiaries will be based on creditworthiness of the farmers as assessed by CBZ and Stanbic Bank.

On the other end, Agribank will establish a special equipment leasing vehicle for the purposes of mechanisation service provision, especially for combine harvesters.

Mnangagwa challenged the public, private institutions and farmers in the agriculture sector to work together to ensure coordinated production, marketing and financing of crucial sectors.

The coming in of private players such as John Deere will ensure among other things that Zimbabwe optimises agricultural production which is presently dominated by draught animal power instead of mechanisation.

Out of the 4.31 million arable hectares, one million hectares is under draught animal power, with only half a million hectares under tractor power. The balance of 2.8 million hectares requires farm mechanisation.

Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi both described the John Deere Agricultural Facility as a step in the right direction in ensuring that Zimbabwe is food sufficient.

On his part Minister Shiri said the agriculture sector had an essential and critical role as a vital pathway and enabler towards the attainment of Vision 2030 which aims to transform Zimbabwe into a middle income economy in 10 years’ time.

John Deere local representative, Mr Graham Smith said the company would help in training farmers in the use and maintenance of the equipment.