Business calls for Government assistance after violent demonstrations

COOKING oil and soap manufacturing company, United Refineries Limited has lost business worth more than $20 million in the back of demonstrations that rocked the country last month, an official has said.

URL chief executive officer Mr Busisa Moyo told a delegation that was led by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube on Friday that the company lost production amounting to between seven and 14 days because of the demonstrations.

Prof Ncube was leading Inter-Ministerial taskforce on emergency relief to businesses and communities that were affected by the January violent demonstrations in Bulawayo.

“Our industry processes various materials and plants ranging from plastics, soya for edible oil, cotton and detergents. However, we are facing difficulties since the Zimbabwe shutdown phase as we lost 7-14 days of production amounting to $20 million in potential revenue losses. This also led to suspended letters of credit of over $30 million for Grain Millers and we are operating at a huge loss so we request that prices prior to the riot be sustained,” said Mr Moyo

He said his company, like most in the city, was also facing a shortage of foreign currency to stock raw material.

In response, Prof Ncube said the Government will prioritise currency reforms so that foreign currency is accessible especially to the business community with large-scale production.

“It is very pleasing that there is a Zimbabwean shareholder in the company (URL) and this is very important in terms of building entrepreneurs in Bulawayo and the nation. There is a lot of scope of expansion for this company and I am waiting for that day when we ring the bell on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange when it lists as at that time it will have grown also creating a lot of jobs within Bulawayo.”

“We know that there is shortage of foreign currency but businesses such as these need more support from us in terms of foreign currency. We need to do something to make it easier for companies such as Bulawayo United Refineries to import and export, we put too many impediments in terms of regulations. We need to loosen up so that such companies can export faster and take advantage of market especially in the region.”

The key issue, he said, rather centres on sourcing of raw materials rather than acquiring forex that is a requirement in trade.

“There is need to make land available so they can contract farmers to grow soya beans and other crops which are processed and used into edible oil so it is important to think of the whole ecosystem in terms of the agricultural sector. The company needs a working CSC (Cold Storage Company) so it needs to be revived to support the supply of animal fat which goes into the detergents production of soap making,” he said.

The tour was attended by the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Cde Judith Ncube, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Cain Mathema, Senior Zanu-PF and Government officials as well as Bulawayo City Council officials.

There were various stakeholders that were also present from Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Retailers Association and Bakers Association of Zimbabwe.

Prof Ncube also announced that Government will avail $19,5 million from a special fund set up to assist businesses that were looted and destroyed during last month’s violent protests.