The Corporation for Industrial Development – IDC has announced that it would spend K17 million (about US$ 1 million) to facelift the Mununshi Banana Estate in Mwense, Luapula province.

The land was privatized shortly after a local businessman who was said to have little management experience with agro companies. Zambia currently has an estimated banana deficit of about 11,000 tonnes/year, giving the local production immediate advantages.

IDC Chief Executive Officer – CEO Mateyo Kaluba has announced that the company is in the process of planting the first 50 hectares of bananas and has so far directly employed some 40 people who are currently on the ground to carry out their work.

He said that IDC had decided to undertake this project as a result of the country’s serious deficit in banana production of about 10,800 metric tons per year and therefore considered it appropriate to invest in bananas as part of the company ‘s agricultural portfolio. Banana being a perennial crop has another advantage in that it takes an average of 9 to 12 months from sowing to harvesting.

He added that expected production target per year for the revamp estate is 6,500 tons and that the corporation intends to push the hectares of bananas cultivation to 330 hectares and reach 730 ha in the next 3 years. The revamp Mununshi scheme will also offer an out-grower scheme for people in the surrounding areas to enable the company to be self-reliant and expand production creating business and employment opportunities for the local community.

“We are also going to take advantage of the export market particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC which is nearby and we are in the process of recruiting a qualified management team for what will now be called the Mununshi Fruit Company that will in the near future, see the company diversify into production of other fruits like Avocados. So, once the company is up and running, the new management team will begin to identify other fruits with high demand for both the local and export markets given that management skill, expertise and infrastructure will already be provided,” He said.

When asked whether the Mununshi Fruit Company will not take away the market from existing private banana farmers, Mateyo said the corporation will instead complement what local farmers are already doing for both commercial and small and emerging farmers. The Mununshi Fruit Company will initially focus on plugging the deficit and intends to grow and contribute to making the country become self-sufficient and later pursue export markets.

“We intend to export to the DRC especially that it has new entry routes and roads around the area to facilitate foreign trade, we have roads now between Luapula province and the northern Province from Kasama, so we expect that it will open up a serious export market for us and bring in additional foreign exchange,” He added.