Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Business Reporter
Eastern Highlands Plantations Limited (EHPL) will invest more than $6 million in a new venture which will see the company replacing 500 hactares of tea crop with macadamia trees.
The initiative is part of a diversification drive that the company embarked on in 2016.
EHPL is one of largest tea producers in Zimbabwe with close to 2 000 hactares under the beverage.
The company’s general manager, Mr Pratap Pareekh, told Post Business during a tour of the tea plantation on Monday, that the company had been planting 40ha of new macadamia trees at a cost of $500 000 every year.
“EHPL has diversified into growing macadamias.
In the last three years we have planted 160ha of macadamia. When this exercise is complete, we will end up with 500ha of macadamia,” he said.
Mr Pareekh said the company had already invested towards value adding the macadamia crop after constructing a factory to process the nuts two years ago.
He said the company would remain with 1 400ha of tea, which it was in the process of replanting to replace the old tea with a new variety.
Besides macadamia, the company has been considering avocado production although Mr Pareekh said the company was yet to make a decision on that.
So far, only one hectare of the fruit has been planted under a pilot project.
Demand for macadamia is growing in major markets of the world, which presents export opportunities for local producers.
According to Trade Map, the global export market for macadamia was worth US$843 million in 2018.
The major importers of macadamia last year were China, United States of America and Vietnam while the biggest exporters of the crop were South Africa, Australia and Kenya.
According to Zimtrade, “the global demand for macadamia nuts is expected to grow significantly, driven by changes in consumption patterns, including rising demand for alternative sources of protein that substitutes for meat.”
Zimbabwe could benefit from this rise in demand if more producers come on board.
Currently, exports are low after the country exported macadamia nuts worth US$15 million, mainly to South Africa and China.
Besides buying the tea leaf produced by the farmers, EHPL provided technical and nutritional support.
It also provided seedling to the willing farmers who want to expand and infill their tea plots.
It has also wholly assisted the farmers to be accredited by the international certification bodies like Rainforest Alliance & UTZ.