The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
AGRICULTURAL and Rural Development Authority (Arda)’s partner at Balu Pecan and Livestock Estate, Kalimba Investments has set sights on venturing into the production of fast bearing fruit tree species as a way of generating revenue to sustain its business operations prior to the commencement of its long-term flagship project.
Balu Pecan and Livestock Estate general manager Dr Jeremy Hubert said plans were underway to embark on pomegranate and almond nuts tree plantations as they are fast bearing trees.
Balu Pecan and Livestock Estate in Umguza District in Matabeleland North is a partnership between Kalimba Investments, a subsidiary of Surrey Abattoirs Private Limited and Arda.
“The other thing which we are looking at doing on this property is potentially putting in pomegranates because they are going to come to the market sooner. We think that pomegranates will do well in this environment.
“There is also a good demand for fruit juice produced from the pomegranate as an export commodity. Again everything we are trying to do here is export oriented, 100 percent export,” said Dr Hubert.
The pomegranate is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub in the family Lythraceae that grows between five and 10 metres tall.
The fruit is typically in season in the Northern Hemisphere from September to February, and in the Southern Hemisphere from March to May.
Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices.
It also has three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea.
Dr Hubert also said a trial run for the growing of almond trees was also underway although he said the tree species were normally cultivated in Mediterranean climates.
Production of the nuts from the first trees grown over 100 hectares last year is expected to start in 2022.
Last year a total of 10 000 trees were grown and this year 21 000 are going to be cultivated.
Dr Hubert also said the estate was envisaged to be an integrated farming model, which would also entail cattle production with the dung from the animals being used as organic fertiliser in an effort to come up with the much sort after organic produce.
“We want to integrate this Pecan project with livestock and one of the big components of that is we would like to turn this into organic Pecan project and we are going to need organic fertiliser for that and one of the best organic fertiliser is dung from cattle,” said Dr Hubert.
He said the international market of pecan nuts was continuously growing with one of the biggest producers in the continent, South Africa even managing to export the commodity without adding value to it.
“As far as we are concerned the pecan market is actually increasing. At the moment we are only just seeing the effects of quality coming in. Up until this point quality hasn’t been a big issue, it’s just becoming an issue. The other thing we know is that the market is growing, if you look at the pecan producers in South Africa probably 99 percent of them do not process anything.
“They (South Africa) are just selling the nut in a shell there is no pressure to increase their margins because if the markets were reduced they would have pressure to process the nut and get value added. There’s nothing like that happening. The exporters, they are almost re-designing the industry around the future of nuts as an export commodity,” said Dr Hubert.
The investor is also looking forward to invest into the construction of another dam as part of its efforts of ensuring adequate water supplies for the project.
“A project this big, most of the financial resources to be spent is always going to be on water so if there is potential of getting a secondary source of water, which we think there’s, it is going to benefit communities around here . . . we are living in Matabeleland so water is always going to be an important resource,” said Dr Hubert.
The project is expected to employ about 2 000 people with a large number of them being seasonal casual workers that would be contracted to pick reaped nuts.