By Ndafadza Madanha
LOCAL firm Life Brand Agric Services is targeting the niche Zimbabwe diaspora community to be part of its castor growing program in the country.
Remittances by Zimbabweans in the diaspora as of 2017 stood at US$780m and the company believes the money can be channeled to investments in the agriculture sector.
Under the program Zimbabweans in the diaspora are required to invest US$3000 in the project and can anticipate returns in excess of US$10 000 per annum.
The company seeks to rope in 80 000 households to grow 150 000 hectares in the long term.
Last year the company had set out to put 25 000 hectares under castor bean crop in a move that could, significantly boost income of farmers in the semi arid and arid regions of the country.
Output from the 25 000 hectares is expected to be 250 million kgs or 250 000 tonnes with the firm assuring farmers of US$1 per kilogramme.
Life brand chief operations officer Israel kembo said Castor beans are in high demand the world over and his organization had secured orders for the byproduct crude castor oil in the Middle East and China.
Currently global demand for Castor oil is US$1.7 trillion.
He said while the firm was prepared to pay farmers in hard currency as they have received advance payments from their foreign buyers they are ultimately bound by the Exchange control regulations enforced by the central bank.
“We have registered about 11 000 hectares to grow castor bean this year though we have enough seed for 25 000 hectares finding farmers is the challenge. Already we have off take agreements with Middle East and Chinese markets and we will convert the castor beans into crude oil and export to those markets. We are offering US$1000 a tonne to the farmer and will pay them hard currency provided the authorities allow us to do so.” said Kembo.
The commercialization of the project has potential to create over 500 000 jobs throughout the value chain and reduce the import bill for fuel, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, paints and livestock feed production which stands at US$2 billion.
The production of castor bean can earn the country up to US$7 billion in foreign exchange.
Kembo said one advantage of castor beans is that it was a drought resistant and it can be grown in all parts of the country with the exception of Nyanga and surrounding areas because of the low temperatures.
Binga district one of the most arid places in the country has already registered 2 300 hectares to grow castor bean.