Businessman and farmer Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese firm to begin a pilot project to produce hybrid rice, which has the potential to ensure large scale rice production not only in Zimbabwe, but in the sadc region.
Ambassador Mutsvangwa, who is also the Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister, signed the MoU on behalf of his firm, Moncris Private Limited, while Yuan's seed company was represented by Professor Yuan Longpin, a Nobel Peace prize winning legend of the hybrid type of rice also referred to as miracle rice .
Under the agreement, the Chinese firm would provide the top rice variety to Moncris for purposes of a pilot project on Zimbabwe's soil.
The Chinese firm would send technical experts in the next few weeks to provide know-how support in testing out the seeds.
"This type of rice is set to make Zimbabwe the region's basket of Southern Africa in terms of rice production and exports," said Ambassador Mutsvangwa. "The pilot study will be done with the private sector, but the expansion will be nationwide."
The pilot study is being undertaken with the blessings of Government after Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made, wrote to Prof Yuan indicating that Zimbabwe wanted to venture into rice production using China's experience.
"I commend the visit by Ambassador Mutsvangwa to your organisation and request you to render him all possible attendance," he said in a letter to Prof Yuan.
"Zimbabwe's interest in rice growing has been expressed at the highest level by His Excellency Cde R.G. Mugabe, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe."
According to the MoU signed by Ambassador Mutsvangwa, on completion of the initial seed trial, both parties would evaluate the results and make necessary recommendations for further progress.
All sides committed themselves to subsequently set a formal agreement, form a joint venture and implement large scale hybrid rice production.
The key objective would be to ensure that the project is supported by the highest officials for both countries to ensure long term food security for Zimbabwe and the sadc region.
Prof Yuan is a Chinese agricultural scientist and educator, known for developing the first hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s.
The hybrid rice is grown in a number of countries in Africa, America and Asia, providing a robust food source in high famine risk areas.