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POLISH company, Citronex, is seeking to import bananas from the country, with talks already underway with the country’s major producer Matanuska.

Citronex is one of the largest distributor and importer of bananas in eastern Europe. It currently imports the bulk of its bananas from Ecuador in South America where it spends US$200 million per annum.

The firm has cast its eyes on Africa where it intends to spend US$50 million annually on imports.

Zimbabwe’s top banana producer, Matanuska has since been approached by the Polish firm over a possible deal.

Citronex purchasing manager, Jacek Konarzewski, confirmed the development.

Konarzewski said their focus on Africa had been a result of changes in their European markets.

“Due to changes in the market, we are currently looking for reliable trading partners in Africa. Our company spends US$200 million on bananas from South America per year. This year we have planned to purchase from Africa bananas for about US$50 million,” he said.

Citronex has a hypermarket network in Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Germany.

It has vast banana greenhouses measuring about 50 hectares, which they intend to double by next year.

Matanuska finance director, Richard Chiwandire, said they were currently working on the logistics for the exports.

Chiwandire hinted that they were likely to rope in their trading subsidiary in Mozambique to satisfy the Polish market.

In Zimbabwe, Matanuska is the leading banana producing company with plantations in Burma Valley (Vumba), Mutema, Chibuwe and Msikavanhu in Chipinge that have a combined capacity to produce 16 000 tonnes.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) indicated that Matanuska has potential to produce up to 35 000 tonnes of bananas.

The firm is currently exporting to Zambia and South Africa. Only two truck-loads of bananas are supplied to Zambia per week while 5 000 tonnes are being delivered to South Africa per annum.

This leaves the country with an oversupply of bananas and enough to export to new markets.

Hence, the Polish deal provides a lucrative opportunity for Zimbabwe currently saddled by low export earnings.

Matanuska went into a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2010 to provide a ready market for small-holders farmers in Mutema.

USAID issued a US$60 000 loan to farmers in the area. The farmers are now contributing significantly to national banana output.

Source : Financial Gazette