Malawi: Conforzi to invest K8.2bn in PPP venture

Chidzungu (L) and Suleman exchange MoU documents
The Nation | 27 May 2022

Conforzi to invest K8.2bn in PPP venture
by Steve Chilundu

Conforzi Plantation Limited has unveiled plans to invest $10 million (about K8.2 billion) in a large-scale irrigation scheme under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to grow high-value crops.
This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Greenbelt Authority (GBA) and Conforzi Plantation Limited on Wednesday in Lilongwe to irrigate over 5 000 hectares.
Conforzi Plantation Limited managing director Mahomed Suleman said in an interview that through the investment, they want to bring Malawi back on the map through the export of value-added products.
He said: “We hope we will create more jobs for the country, we are already producing tea, macadamia and we will now be venturing into industrial hemp production, bird’s eye chillies, maize, soya beans and groundnuts, among others.
“All the projects have their own sets of budgets and industrial hemp is a crop that has a $5 million [about K4 billion] budget and we have land at Chigumula in Blantyre for this project.”
He said the hemp project alone will employ more than 600 people, but to increase production and value addition in the tea and macadamia plantations, they will employ 4 000 people and 6 000 during the peak of the season.
GBA chief executive officer Eric Dudley Chidzungu said they are encouraged that after the 6 000 hectares of Salima sugar project, they are now partnering Conforzi for a 5 000-hectare irrigation project set to transform the agriculture sector to create jobs and spur economic growth.
“In the next three months, we want to start working on the ground with Conforzi, and in two years’ time we want to see fully blown fruits of this MoU,” he said
Chidzungu said through the partnership, they will engage out-growers, who are smallholder farmers, to participate to benefit from the project.
In terms of the partnership, Chidzungu said Conforzi will avail land and some capital while the GBA will provide needed services, value addition and any needed infrastructure.
He said the actual shareholding value has not yet been concluded, but said a special purpose vehicle has been created to look at the value of each other’s roles and come up with a win-win shareholding in the venture.
Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe, who witnessed the signing ceremony, said the partnership will partly be a learning experience for the planned implementation of mega farms projects.
He said it will be a huge disappointment to witness two great firms that will be producing and exporting raw materials instead of value-added products. GBA has three known joint ventures with the Indian AUM Sugar and Allied Limited running Salima Sugar Company and with an Israeli company, Inosselia Agro Africa Limited running the horticultural Greenbelt Greenhouse Limited and Nchalo Greenbelt Initiative Limited in partnership with Nchalo Smallholder Cane Growers Association
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