Farmers plan to invest in Zambia - govt

Reuters | 5 August 2010

Photo: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Indian commercial farmers plan to invest in a new model farm in Zambia, according to the government, which seeks to diversify the economy by promoting agriculture as an alternative to copper and cobalt mining.

Zambia's ministry of foreign affairs said on Thursday that Indian farmers were interested in investing in the 155,000-hectare Nansanga model farm bloc, where the government had built roads and dams to attract investors to grow export crops.

"Indian commercial farmers, mostly specialising in sugar production, are expected in Zambia in December 2010 to explore prospects of investing in Nansanga farm bloc," the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.

"The expression of interest follows a business meeting between a Zambian investment promotion delegation and the Indian business community and commercial farmers in the commercial city of Mumbai."

The global financial crisis hit Zambia's copper exports, and the government has said its economy cannot continue to rely on the copper industry.

Official data shows that as of November 2009, mining accounted for almost 90 percent of exports from Zambia, Africa's top copper producer.

A government minister said in March Zambia had spent more than 100 billion Zambian kwacha ($20.6 million) on the electrification of the model farm and building of other infrastructure.

Zambia, previously a net importer of maize, has turned around its agricultural sector to become a net exporter following a government programme to provide subsidised pesticides and seed to small farmers, moves also aimed at improving security of food supplies.

The southern African country produced 2.7 million tonnes of maize in the 2009/2010 season, exceeding last season's harvest of 1.9 million tonnes and providing a surplus of 1.1 million tonnes.

Zambia planned to export some maize to Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which had expressed interest in buying maize.

(Editing by Olivia Kumwenda and Jane Baird)

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