Zambia should seriously venture into cashew nuts cultivation because the price on the international market was twice that of copper, Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda has said.
He said this in Mongu yesterday when Government loaned K 5.5 million to Nandusa Multipurpose Cooperative Society for the cultivation of cashew nut.
Mr Chikwanda said the loan, to be paid back over a grace period 15 years, was aimed at promoting diversification in the exports of Zambia products.
During the signing ceremony of the loan agreement between Government and Nandusa Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Mr Chikwanda said cultivation of cashew nuts should be the next alternative after copper.
“We are not here to sign a mere memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Government and the people at Nandusa but also to deliver on one of the development agendas that the Patriotic Front has put in place.
‘‘You should see the development we have made in a few years of our governance. If we had been here a few years earlier Zambia would have been more developed,” he said.
Mr Chikwanda said Government was highly expectant about the cashew nut scheme and that the Nandusa co-operative should deliver to the people’s expectations.
“The price of cashew nuts has hit twice the price of copper on the international market and this is one of the ways that Zambia will proceed to develop away from copper,” he said.
Mr Chikwanda said Zambia should emulate Ivory Coast that has invested in the cashew nuts cultivation, producing close to 7,000 metric tonnes yearly.
He said Government would continue to invest in cashew nut cultivation to empower people and provide an environment for the growth of business and the economy.
Mr Chikwanda said the loan was just the beginning for the business as the Government planned to inject another K4.5 million once it was secured from the African National Bank.
And Nandusa Multipurpose Cooperative Society chairperson Moses Shimbilimbili, who signed the agreement on behalf of the society, said the money would help create 3,000 permanent jobs at production, processing and marketing levels as well as service
He said the project would contribute to the generation of the much needed foreign exchange.
Mr Shimbilimbili said the society would be transparent and accountable for the funds and ensure that progress reports were submitted to the Ministry of Finance on a regular basis.
“The society has appropriate policies and procedures that will promote good corporate governance, transparency and accountability. We will ensure that human, financial and non-financial resources are directed towards achieving the goal. In view of this progress reports will be submitted to Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders on a regular basis,” he said.
Mr Shimbilimbili thanked the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission and Ministry of Agriculture that contributed towards the development of the initiative.