Zimbabwe treasures China's help in difficult times – Biti

HARARE – China on Tuesday presented 4,000 tons of soya beans worth 500,000 U. S. dollars to Zimbabwe to help ease food shortages in the country.\r\n

The donation will also boost the capacity utilization of vegetable oil processor Olivine Industries, which has been operating below capacity because of a shortage of raw materials.

The government identified Olivine Industries as a leading producer of vegetable oil in the country and decided to pass on the soya beans to it for processing.

The company’s managing director, Jonas Mushangari, said his company would pay the government for the seed.

Outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Yuan Nansheng, who leaves Harare on Wednesday for a new posting in Suriname, presented the gift to Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti at a brief ceremony held at the Olivine Industries plant in Harare’s Willowvale industrial area.

Several other cabinet ministers and deputy ministers also attended the handover ceremony.

Ambassador Yuan said China and Zimbabwe enjoyed very profound and traditional relations and that Zimbabwe regards China as her reliable all-weather friend.

"Considerable achievements have been made in the fields of trade and investment, attracting economic cooperation between our two countries. All this has contributed a lot to the further development of our relations," he said.

With a view to further strengthening the friendship between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Chinese government decided to provide a grant of 4,000 tons of soya beans to Zimbabwe, the ambassador said.

"I believe that the soya beans will assist you alleviate the food shortages which the Zimbabwe people are currently experiencing. Due to the drought that affected several countries in the region of Southern Africa, Zimbabweans are facing food shortages now. The Chinese people and the Chinese government are deeply concerned about that. We further believe that under the leadership of the Zimbabwe government and with great effort played by the Zimbabwe people, the current hardships will soon be surmounted," Yuan said.

Biti thanked China for being Zimbabwe’s friend, especially during times of hardships. "China has stood by Zimbabwe through thick and thin, particularly during the past two years. This assistance is a reflection of the links that we have," Biti said.

He said Zimbabwe has been in extensive discussions with the Chinese government and the Chinese Import and Export Bank and wants to relay the foundations of a normal society and normal economy.

"One of the things that we are going to do in 2009/2010 is to ensure that we are ready for that agricultural season and that we are able to produce at least two million tons of grain in the 2009/2010 agricultural season," he said.

Malawi, a country that is half the size of Zimbabwe, has produced 3.2 million tons of grain this year, compared with Zimbabwe’s 1.2 million tons of grain, and the bulk of that has come from small scale communal farmers, according to Biti.

"So we are going to empower our agricultural sector so that once again it becomes the key axis or our economy," he said.

He declared that Zimbabwe wants to graduate its relationship with China from that of development and humanitarian aid to transformation assistance, expecting his country to experience economic growth in the next two years.

"I can assure you we are on our way to our recovery," he said.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Professor Welshman Ncube said he hoped that the donation would help Olivine Industries increase its capacity utilization in line with the imperatives of the government’s Short Term Emergency Recovery Program.

"We know that there are many other challenges that we will continue to face in terms of power generation, in terms of our transport network and in terms of supply of our water and we will continue to look to our friends, including the Republic of China, to assist us in investing in these areas so that we can deliver these enablers to industry," Ncube said.

China has helped Zimbabwe overcome its difficulties over the years and has donated an agriculture technology demonstration center, a hospital and two primary schools, all of which are near completion. It has funded an orphanage just outside Harare, where it will also donate another primary school to accommodate 800 pupils.

China has granted Zimbabwe a 200 million dollars buyer’s loan and another favorable loan to support key sectors, in particular, agriculture.

Recently, China provided 5 million dollars in cash aid and another 5 million dollars worth of food. At the height of the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe last year, China donated 500,000 dollars to help ease human suffering.

More funding has been provided for the refurbishment of the National Sports Stadium in Harare, while the Chinese community is involved in the Care Action project initiated by Ambassador Yuan, in which they help the disadvantaged, orphans and those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. -Xinhua