26 May 2014

Mozambique: Chinese Enterprise Helps Resolve Mozambique's Food Crisis

Maputo — Although Mozambique has emerged from the nightmare of civil war, the "Pearl of Southeastern Africa" remains troubled by serious problems, including a food crisis.

Though far apart from China, its connection with the world's most populous country is becoming tighter. It has not only found, near its coastline, porcelain relics from the Ming-era maritime voyages of Chinese trading fleets between 1405 and 1433, but also benefited from agricultural projects from the world's second largest economy.

In recent years, an increasing number of Chinese agricultural enterprises are seeking broader development overseas, with some of them figuring their way into Mozambique, where their hard work and the experience of feeding Chinese people are assisting locals in achieving self-sufficiency in food.

Lianhe Africa Agriculture Development Co. is one of them. Although the company set its foot on the Mozambican soil only less than two years ago, it has already put high-quality rice to the market in Beira, the second largest city and a major seaport and airport in Mozambique.

According to Zhou Mingzhao, Lianhe's president, the firm started to explore overseas opportunities three years ago in response to the Chinese government's call on private enterprises to go global.

After visiting some countries in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, they picked Mozambique to promote and develop the Chinese high-yield and high-efficiency agricultural method.

The Chinese company then signed a cooperation agreement with a farm in the central province of Sofala in 2012 to start rice and cotton cultivation, processing and other operations on its 600-hectare land.

"The reason for choosing Africa is simple -- it is an undeveloped virgin land," Zhou said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

In his eyes, Mozambique's black soil, good climate, abundant rainfall and sufficient labor are all favorable conditions for agricultural development.

At present, 26 skilled workers from China and hundreds of local farmers hired by the company are working on 852 hectares of land, leased from local people and the government.

"We have adopted and altered the Chinese household contract system. The company assigned 750 mu (50 hectares) of land to each of the local workers, and they can contract with some other locals to help them complete the farm work," said Zhou.

Zhou said he believes that mutual respect is most important to the development of a smooth relationship between employers and local employees as it can lead to mutual understanding and support, and finally result in an all-win situation among enterprises, local governments and farmers.

Aside from hiring local workers, Lianhe also provides seeds, fertilizers and agricultural machinery for farmers. The cost of these services will be deducted from the final yield when the company buys grains after harvest.

The farmers involved in the project could get up to 2,000 meticais per acre (equivalent to 66 U.S. dollars) of income, which is believed to be high for many local farmers.

For Zhou and his company, this is just a beginning. In the second half of this year, they plan to cultivate nearly 1,000 hectares of rice, 100 hectares of cotton, and increase investment to improve local agricultural facilities.

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