ZIMBABWE – Nhimbe Fresh, one of Zimbabwe’s largest horticultural firms, has completed the construction of a 1.9 megawatts (MW) solar plant, to power operations at its estates in Marondera.

Nhimbe Fresh is a premier producer of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, stone fruit, snap peas, fresh vegetables and snow peas among others for both the local and export market.

Electricity shortages in Zimbabwe have caused frequent power cuts, prompting some businesses to invest in solar energy.

The shortages are largely resulting from recurrent breakdowns at the Hwange Thermal Power station.

Prior to Nhimbe going green, Schweppes Zimbabwe, manufacturer and distributor of non-carbonated beverages in Zimbabwe commissioned a 500 kilowatts solar power plant mid this year, to run its Beitbridge Juice Plant.

The newly established solar plant by Nhimbe will power most of its operations including park houses and cold store facilities.

The system is set to reduce the agriculture company’s energy costs by more than 60 percent per year and cut carbon emissions by more than one million kilograms annually.

The project sites will be integrated with 3.9 MWh of battery capacity, enabling Nhimbe Fresh to continuously operate on solar energy alone, alleviating the burden of grid outages and maximising earnings.

Nhimbe is also set to commission a dam with a holding capacity of 900 million gallons. It is also constructing ozblu jullietta blueberry pump station and its Rukodzi’s farm, which will see the development of 200 hectares over the next five years.

The company runs an out-grower scheme, supporting 250 smallholder farmers who receive specialised training and support and gain vast access to export markets.

Further boosting its operations, the company secured a US$15 million investment from an undisclosed United Arab Emirates investor, last year.

The funding acquired was channelled towards development of other fruit crops including lemons, avocados and pecan nuts under its Stone Fruit project in Marondera in the Mashonaland East Province.

All the produce are targeted to be exported to the United Arab Emirates, whose fruits and vegetables market was valued at US$ 3.731billion in 2018, and it is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.93% in 2020-2025, according to a report by Research and Markets.

Zimbabwe’s horticultural market is estimated to register a CAGR of 2.5% in 2020-2025 and is promising to be one of the country’s major foreign currency earners.

For the first half of 2021, total horticulture exports from the Southern African market reached US$30 million, as firms benefit from government incentives, bumper harvest and reopening of global markets.

According to official data released by local trade promotion body, ZimTrade, the growth in exports represents a 6.5 percent increase from US$31.8 million during the same period last year to US$33.9 million.

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