SCHWEPPES Zimbabwe’s Norton Based fruit processing subsidiary, Best Fruit Processors (BFP), says its board of directors has approved a $10 million investment to establish a similar operation at Esigodini, Matabeleland Province South, this year.
BFP has already commissioned its nascent fruit processing plant in Norton. The firm is targeting 20 000 tonnes of raw fruit this year, but the plant has installed capacity of 30 000 tonnes annually.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya toured the Norton plant yesterday in the company of officials from his bank and other banks namely Agribank and CBZ Bank.
He pledged to support the project through RBZ and local banks, as it fitted into the bank’s current mantra for productivity as the solution to the country’s economic challenges, including boosting export earnings and creating new jobs.
The firm’s Norton plant processes, for value addition, a range of fruits namely tomatoes, mangos, guavas and passion fruit. A total of 2 400 tonnes of mostly tomatoes, but also guavas and mangos were processed during the pilot run last year. But board chairperson Nicholas Ncube said BFP is targeting a total of 3 328 out growers in Matabeleland under the $10 million new plant investment project to be constructed at Esigodini.
“Significant progress has been made in stabilising the value chains at the Norton plant to enable the key lessons to be applied to the Esigodini project. Preliminary works for the new processing plant, agronomy assessments and out grower mobilisation is planned to commence quarter,” Mr Ncube said.
BFP said 2 550 farmers participated in the out grower programme to supply the Norton Plant. The programme, the firm said, covered diverse range of farmers ranging from irrigation schemes, small holder to commercial farmers.
This year, the company intends to contract even more farmers to grow feedstock the company requires for its operations. BFP’s Norton plant has capacity of 10 tonnes per day.
BFP, 70 percent owned by Schweppes Zimbabwe and 30 percent owned by Agricultural Development Authority, intends to render support in the form of funding for irrigation equipment and inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals.
The company contends that agronomy challenges in the pilot project relating to supply of feedstock of the right quantity and quality due to equipment used by farmers had provided key lessons, which informed a robust agronomy plan.
“We are mobilising 3 000 tonnes from all areas with guava in the country, working with communities such as Watyoka, Mhondoro, Wedza, Honde Valley, Zvimba, Zaka and Chipinge,” said Best Fruit Processors general manager Smart Zongololo.
Mr Zongololo said BFP is targeting most of the Southern Africa region to market its fruit products, as Zimbabwe could absorb only a fraction of its 6 000 tonnes annual output. BFP resuscitated, at a cost of $3 million, a processing plant owned by Zagrinda, a unit of ARDA, which processed raw fruit into pastes and purees, but had not functioned for five years.