NatFoods adequately stocked, but worried about El Niño
National Foods said it has enough raw materials including maize, soya bean, wheat, and traditional grains for the next six months, but expressed concerns about the El Niñoweather pattern which could negatively impact the 2023–24 agriculture season.
NatFoods is one of Zimbabwe’s largest food manufacturers and produces a broad range of food commodities including maize meal, flour, rice, salt, snacks, biscuits, pasta, sugar beans, baked beans, popcorn, and a full range of animal feed.
The bulk of its raw materials comes from agriculture. However, weather experts have since warned of the El Niño effect that could affect Zimbabwe and other regional countries.
“If El Niño leads to challenges, we will engage the Government which has already proactively allowed some imports despite good stocks,” said Mr Mike Lashbrook during a tour of the company’s operation by Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Stembiso Nyoni on Wednesday.
“We have adequate raw materials at the moment, and there are no issues in terms of supplies of rice, soya, wheat, and maize.”
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in July declared the start of the devastating climate phenomenon, warning its return would lead to rising global temperatures and extreme weather conditions.
The U.N. weather agency estimated there is a 90 percent probability of the El Niño event persisting through the second half of the year and it is expected to be “at least moderate strength.”
According to the WMO, it occurs on average every two to seven years in episodes lasting nine to 12 months. It is a naturally occurring climate pattern linked to the warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean and takes place in the context of a climate changed by human activities.
In Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, alongside Mozambique, and Madagascar are listed as highly exposed nations to the potent climate phenomena making a return in almost four years and threatening extreme conditions such as heat waves and floods.
Mr said the company had enough stocks supported by improved national harvests and yields from its contract schemes.
Over the past two years, Mr Lashbrook said the company made investments worth over US$30 million in new products and expansion.
“The pasta plant is expected to come online this year; the biscuit plant will be completed by December this year while in Bulawayo we have invested in bread capacity,” he said.
The investments in the value chain will ensure the company produces competitively against regional products.
“We will be value-adding flour to ensure we produce products that are of high value and important to our country.
Mr Nyasha Mhizha, managing executive of the new biscuit division said the plant will be commissioned before the end of the year.
“We are seeing a lot of imports coming into Zimbabwe of superior quality. We therefore went on to procure the latest equipment to be able to compete with our regional peers and substitute them with local products,” he said.
The plant equipment was made in Italy.
As part of the US$30 million investments in new projects, the company is seeking to ramp up production and expand.
Other major projects in the pipeline include a new flour mill in Bulawayo and a second cereal plant in Harare.