Zambia's Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda at the opening of US-based AGCO's "Future Farm" operation in Zambia, May 2015. (Photo: AGCO)
Zambia eyes Chinese investment in tapping into agriculture potential: minister
LUSAKA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Zambia's Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda has urged Chinese investors to tap into the potential of agricultural sector in the southern African country, saying an array of incentives are waiting for them.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Lubinda said Zambia has abundant arable land which has remained unexploited due to constraint funds and out-dated production capacity, and the country was only using 15 percent of its 42 million hectares arable land.
The Zambian minister said the government has put in place various incentives for various investors wishing to exploit the abundant agricultural potential.
The government, he said has put in place an ambitious program of opening up more than 1.5 million hectares of land in the next two years for agricultural purposes and has selected 10 areas where it intends to develop farming blocks with each block having a land space of not less than 100,000 hectares.
"In that 100,000 hectares we intend to give 10,000 hectares to a co-venture, a major agricultural producer who should also provide agro-processing abilities and provide equipment, provide training and skills development for small-scale farmers and the remaining 90,000 hectares is to be split into smaller portions of land to be given to small-scale farmers and emerging farmers," he said.
Besides the 10,000 hectares of land free for investors for up to 99 years, Lubinda said other incentives include tax free for a period of five years if a company invests more than 500,000 U.S. dollars, reduced electricity tariffs for investors in the sector as well as reduced income tax.
Chinese investors can enjoys all these incentives "as long as that Chinese company can come and demonstrate that they have the money that they can use to develop the land and that they can create agro-processing in the zone to create a demand for produce from small-scale farmers," he said.
Apart from investment in agricultural production, the Zambian minister said the government was interested in Chinese investors to venture into manufacturing of agricultural products as well into fish farming.
The government, he said, wanted increased investment in the agriculture sector because it wanted investors to exploit the country's natural resources for the country's economic development in order to create more jobs and improve the living standards of people.
Lubinda dismissed assertions that China was only interested in Africa's raw materials.
"There is no investor who goes to invest where there are no resources to use, where there are no resources to exploit. Every investor, even an investor from Mars, when they come to earth, they will be coming because there are resources to be exploited. And when you come to invest, it is because you want to attract value, you want to earn profit," he said
"We are hoping that the Chinese government can facilitate for Chinese investors to come and invest, we are hoping that the Chinese government can also put resources available to investors to come and invest in Zambia," he added.
The minister further called for the promotion of joint ventures between Zambian and Chinese investor.