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May 17, 2010

Iranian assembly plant in Zimbabwe rolls out first tractors

by Walter Muchinguri

The Zimbabwe-Iran joint tractor manufacturing project, Motira, has started operating at the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries assembly plant with at least 60 units having been rolled out to date.

The project was launched by the Islamic Republic of Iran head of state, President Mahmoud Ahmajinejad, last month during his official visit to the country when he also officially opened the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.

Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe Limited spokesperson Mr Derek Sibanda said the tractor units were being assembled using completely knocked down kits.

"Since the commissioning of the tractor assembly line last month, we have assembled to date over 60 tractor units of the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITMCO), also known locally as the Massey Ferguson brand.

"We are currently assembling seven models ranging from the 47-horsepower to 110-horsepower (4x4) tractors," he said.

He added that the assembly of implements such as disc harrows, ploughs, maize planters and many more would be starting in earnest in the next two weeks.

"We are awaiting a consignment of all implements that any farmer would require and these would also be assembled locally. We want to sell these tractors as a combination so that a farmer does not only buy a tractor without its implements and then finds that he has the burden to hire maybe a plough or disc harrow that suits the tractor model he has," he said.

Mr Sibanda said Motira would also be providing after-sales support and technicians had been sent to Iran for technical training.

"Service will be provided on site by our field service teams. We have positioned ourselves to ensure that we can be at any point in Zimbabwe within three hours from receiving a call-out message. Our after-sales outreach programme will engage farm technicians on basic maintenance and service. A special programme has been designed for tractor drivers to include basic handling and usage of the tractor," said Mr Sibanda

The IDC also says the next phase of the project would be to set up a foundry plant that is targeted at producing about 5 000 tractor units per annum. This is in line with the current capacity at the WMMI assembly plant.

The tractor manufacturing deal is projected earn the country over US$30 million annually from the export of at least 2 000 tractor units.

The Motira tractor company is a joint venture partnership between the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe Limited, the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company and the Iran Foreign Investment Company (IFIC). The three parties signed a shareholders’ agreement on the deal in March 2008.

Under the agreement, ITMCO and IFIC jointly hold 55 percent in Motira while IDC has 45 percent although the shareholding would be reviewed at a later stage to take into consideration the country’s empowerment laws.

The implementation of the project, however, took longer due to "administrative issues that had to be agreed upon before the project could roll out and these have since been finalised", said Mr Sibanda.

This resulted in delays in the release of a US$4 million grant that the Iranian Government had provided for the project. The money has since been released.

The Herald

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