THE biggest multi-million organic herbal tea factory in Southern Africa was commissioned in Penhalonga, just outside Mutare yesterday (Thursday), in a move that will earn the country more foreign currency through exports.
The Southern Africa’s Herbal and Tea Factory was bankrolled by a private enterprise, Organic Africa in partnership with German and Swiss investors.
Besides setting up the herbal tea factory, Organic Africa is working with 5 000 small-scale farmers and 3 000 wild fruit collectors all over Zimbabwe.
With earnings of more than US$50 billion, 50 times higher than the earnings of farmers from tobacco worldwide, production of organic herbal tea offers a unique opportunity for the local farming sector to achieve the envisaged US$8,2 billion agriculture economy by 2025.
In an interview on the sidelines of the factory’s commissioning, Organic Africa chief executive officer, Mr Dominikus Collenberg, said they sought to increase Zimbabwe’s exports from 43 million Euros that was recorded in 2019.
“We started to have organic tea production a dozen of years ago and currently we are producing 500 tonnes. We are aiming to get up to 10 000 tonnes per year. We have started with this high performing organic tea factory in Penhalonga and it is one of the best in the world.
“This machine can cater for 250 to 400 tonnes of organic herbal tea per annum. We have a second machine in Mbire in Mashonaland Central. We are currently working here in Manicaland on 250 hectares of land where we grow organic tea for export and we have another 250ha in Mbire. On top of this, we have 5 000 small-scale farmers who act as our out-growers all over the country. We also have 3 000 families of wild collectors of indigenous fruits like baobab fruits,” said Mr Collenberg.
He added: “We invested double-digit USA million dollars to set up this factory. What we are aiming is to have more exports from Zimbabwe to Germany. In 2019, Zimbabwe exported products worth 43 million Euros to Germany, compared to 33 million Euros worth of imports. With the commissioning of this plant, the country is on the right track to be one of the biggest exporters of organic produce in the world.”
Mr Collenberg said Organic Africa has also tapped into the enormous potential of value-added organic production, processing and marketing of premium value herbs, spices and medicinal plants, drawing upon indigenous knowledge systems and building on existing networks.
“We offer training to all our partner farmers in organic farming and certification, reducing their reliance on harmful chemicals. We believe in ethical and sustainable partnerships as a means of achieving the very best quality products, which are all internationally certified (Organic EU and NOP and Fair Trade).
“We offer long- term contracts providing our partner farmers with better market linkages and guaranteeing better prices, thus generating employment creation and improved income as well as increased food security. We enable farmers to shift part of their income towards educating their children, better health care, and a better quality of life,” he said.
Commissioning the factory, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister, Douglas Karoro, said the development constitutes a bold step towards meeting the twin objectives of strategic marketing and satisfying global health concerns.
“In view of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, my ministry developed the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan (HRGP) aimed at increasing food and nutrition security, exports, household income and reduce imports.
“Tea is one of the nine value chains selected as key to this initiative and the idea is to ultimately produce Sector Development Plan Agreements which are then signed by Government and the private sector. It is important to note that while huge market opportunities for tea are there and continue to grow in the unforeseeable future, our farmers should embrace compliance to set standards as they allow the produce to access high quality and high margin international export markets,” said Deputy Minister Karoro.
He added: “I am glad to note that there is one company here in Zimbabwe which has stepped into this certified market, Organic Africa and is exporting into the certified market which gives an average 20 to 30 percent higher prices than the uncertified market.
“The export market for high quality goods is a key sector for the Zimbabwean economy. Therefore, what Organic Africa is doing speaks to the attainment of an Upper Middle Class Income by 2030.
“I am glad to report that Organic Africa is aiming at adding 2 000 to 10 000 hectares of land under its portfolio. This is a million dollar in Foreign Direct Investment to Zimbabwe and will boost export earnings. This will happen through additional product lines apart from herbs and spices, cereals as well as fresh produce such as vegetables and fruit will be produced.”
Organic Africa has achieved a number of certification among them, Fair Trade, Fair For Live, Fair Wild, Organic NOP for the American market and Organic EU for the European and world market.
The occasion was graced by German and Swiss ambassadors, Ambassadors Udo Volz and Niculin Jager respectively.