The Sena Company, which runs one of the largest sugar plantations in Mozambique at Marromeu, on the south bank of the Zambezi River, is introducing the cultivation of stevia, a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia Rabaudiana, which is native to Brazil and Paraguay.

During his visit to Marromeu district on Tuesday, President Filipe Nyusi visited the company’s stevia project, and Sena Company officials briefed him on its advantages. The company is diversifying the crops it produces, increasing its sources of income, producing raw material for the food and medical industries, and creating further job opportunities.

Officials showed Nyusi round the nursery where the mother plants are grown, before the stevia is later transferred to the fields. This year the Sena Company has six hectares reserved for stevia production, but the area could be increased to 50 hectares and the company hopes to obtain four stevia harvests a year.

Company managers told Nyusi they hope to obtain eight tonnes of dry stevia leaves. After initial processing, the leaves will be exported to China for transformation into the final sweetener (claimed to be 300 times as sweet as sugar).

The main consumer of stevia is Japan, which uses it to sweeten foods and soft drinks, including locally produced Coca-Cola. It has been used increasingly in the United States and other western countries in recent years, marketed under a variety of brand names.