National Project Status for Willowton

Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
WILLOWTON Group will soon begin construction of an integrated fast moving consumer goods factory in Mutare after the company was granted National Project Status, a preferential treatment which includes exemptions from paying import duties and other taxes. The South African company plans to spend as much as $40 million to set up the plant, expected to create 100 jobs directly and thousands in the downstream industries.

The group manufactures a wide range of products including edible oils, margarine, spreads, toiletries, laundry and bathing soaps, candles, chocolates, baking and industrial fats.

Some of its popular brands on the local market include Sunfoil cooking oil and d’lite cooking oil. Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha confirmed the latest development last Friday, saying the company had secured approvals to start implementing the project.

“It is true, they have obtained all the approvals including the National Project Status,” he said. Willowton acquired premises in Mutare and some of the equipment is being shipped from Germany while the boilers were assembled by a local firm, said one official.

The official said the “project can now be accelerated now that all statutory approvals are in place.” The official could however, not provide specific time-lines as to when production will commence preferring to say “the important thing is that we are on the ground.”

The factory’s main production line will produce close to half a million of edible oil per day. Some of the products to be produced at the factory are candles, waxes, soaps and stock feed.

The company has three plants in South Africa; Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Zimbabwe has four main oil expressers, with crushing capacity of 24 000 tonnes of oil seed per month. These are ETG Parrogate, Surface Investments, Olivine and United Refineries.

The country has been spending millions of dollars on cooking oil imports due to limited supplies from the local producers. However, local producers have managed to raise capacity with local output now exceeding domestic demand, Minister Bimha said. This was after local producers raised capacity while Government came in with measures to restrict imports.

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