HARARE, May 20 (The Source) – Beitbridge Juicing Private Limited (BBJ), a wholly owned Schweppes Holdings Africa subsidiary, says it has since September 2015 invested $3 millioninto resuscitatingits fruit processing plant in Norton.
The plant, Best Fruit Processors Private Limited (BFP), is a joint venture between BBJ, which owns 70 percent of the business, and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which holds the remaining30 percent.
Speaking after a tour of the plant by Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha on Friday, BFP General Manager, Smart Zongololo said the plant is currently operating at 10 percent capacity due to low supply of raw materials.
Zongololo said the company targets to contract 3,000 farmers to produce tomatoes which is among the key raw materials which also include mangoes, guavas and other fruit.
“A sustainable inclusive business model incorporating communal farmers into our value chains is a key pillar of success for our fruit processing division and therefore a lot of our effort as group is focused on creating a solid platform for investment in that area as we provide a ready market for fruit that meets our criteria,” he said.
The plant produces tomato paste and fruit purees, and has capacity to process 30,000 tonnes of raw fruit per year, processing 10 tonnes per hour.
Zongololo said since commencement of production in December 2015, the plant has to date processed 100 tonnes mango, 257 tonnes guava and 30 tonnes tomatoes.
He said the company procured the fruit for a value of $300,000 but is targeting procurement spend at $2 million in 2016 which will increase to $5 mln in 2017.
Zongololo said BFP plans to export 70 percent of produce this year, with the remainder for the domestic market.
“The BFP product portfolio is focused on tomato paste which is expected to contribute about 50 percent of the total volume produced. Currently most tomato paste utilised by domestic and regional manufacturers is imported from China.”
Industry Minister Bimha said government will develop informed policies that promote companies who are into value addition.
He added that the company should also aim to capacitate producers of raw materials in order to increase plant utilisation.
Marketing and Public Affairs director Unaiswi Nyikadzino said the company will also revive a similar plant in Matabeleland at a cost estimated at over $10 million.