ZIMBABWE – Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe (THZ) has re-affirmed its commitment to the $1 billion Kilimanjaro Sugar Cane Project in Chiredzi, with the firm and some local banks investing more than $320 million.
Tongaat, together with local financial institutions CBZ, CABS, ZB Bank and FBC, are financing the project, which seeks to empower Zimbabweans as outgrower farmers and also ramp up aggregate sugar and ethanol output.
This is also aimed to help grow the economy in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision to make Zimbabwe an upper middle income country by 2030.
The project will open up over 3, 000 hectares of virgin land from Tongaat Hulett into cane fields.
The fields will be handed over to Government for allocation to indigenous out-grower farmers on a cost recovery basis which is expected to increase sugar output earning the country more foreign currency.
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, about 420 hectares of the virgin land had been put under cane.
The project has been stalled by the lockdown announced by Government to curb the spread of Covid-19. Work is expected to resume after the lockdown period.
Initial projections set September this year as the month by which the 3,000 ha of virgin land would have been put under cane.
Chief executive Tongaat Hippo Valley Estate, Mr Aiden Mhere said it was no longer possible to complete the project by the scheduled date.
“We remain committed to finishing the Kilimanjaro Project and contribute to Zimbabwe’s economic growth, but we have been affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, which forced us to halt operations in line with measures announced by Government to stop the spread of the virus,” said Mr Mhere.
In other related news, the company has availed 2 000 hectares for this year’s food initiative that will for the first time also cover traditional grains i.e. sorghum and sunflower seeds in addition to maize.
Since inception of the project, Tongaat has been availing an average 300ha for winter maize but this year Tongaat agreed to increase land available for winter farming after identifying additional idle land in Chiredzi and Mwenezi sugar plantations.