PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has announced plans by the Government to revive the moribund Kawambwa tea estate in Luapula province and transform it into a fully fledged producer of the commodity.
Mr Lungu said that the Government would revisit the financial requirements of the estate which was placed under receivership and repossessed by the State after a Zimbabwean owner abandoned it. “By next year, we want to start pumping money into this factory so that we can earn foreign exchange through tea exports.
“I have heard your cry and will work flat out to ensure that the Ministry of Finance finds money to make this company viable again,” Mr Lungu said.
The Head of State said this when he addressed the 350 workers of the estate which Government will run through the Zambia Forestry and Forests Industry Corporation (ZAFFICO), which is an agent of the economic diversification programme.
Mr Lungu said Government would soon conclude matters surrounding the compulsory agreement so that the Zimbabwean investor, Khumul Holdings, settled their contractual share.
He said Government would also bear all salary arrears and statutory debts so that the company’s financial books were clean.
“ZAFFICO is a very competent institution and let me state that you are in very safe hands,” the President said much to the joy of the cheering employees.
Mr Lungu directed the Treasury to avail money so that the workers, whom he described as patriotic, were paid this months’ salaries.
“I appreciate your patriotism and hard work in preserving the tea plantation. “We are duty bound to revive this company and permanent secretary for Luapula (Boniface Chimbwali) and Kawambwa Member of Parliament (Nixon Chilangwa), I want all to be well here (Kawambwa tea) by next year,” said Mr Lungu who was in the company of senior Government and Patriotic Front officials.
The President added that as Government was promoting the buy Zambian agenda, State House would be the prime customer of Kawambwa tea leaves.
Earlier, company general manager John Bunda said the more than 200 hectare estate had the capacity to employ 1,000 people when operating at full capacity.
“Your Excellency, we expect to produce 965,000 kilogrammes of tea next year if only we are assisted with capital.
” The future of Kawambwa tea company is still bright for us to compete on both local and international markets, reduce tea imports and save the country’s meagre foreign exchange reserves, ” Mr Bunda said.