FOOD and drink processor, Nestlé Zimbabwe has recorded a 30 percent increase in volume after having ploughed in US$2,5 million in its cereals manufacturing plant expansion project last year in November.
Responding to questions from Sunday News Business, Nestlé Zimbabwe’s Harare factory, corporate communications officer Mrs Yamurai Zhou said they were operating at high-capacity utilisation.
“The installed cereals line (roller dryer 3) has allowed for an additional 30 percent increase in volume. The cereals plant is now already operating at a high-capacity utilisation and hence we will investigate the need for a fourth roller dryer in the short to medium term 2021-2023. We have high utilisation on the cereals plant and medium utilisation on the milk’s plant due to the current national milk situation,” she said.
Mrs Zhou said they were also making steady progress in producing Nestlé Cremora locally with Zimbabwean milk included in it, to ensure continuous supply and counter the national milk situation. With other milk processors in the country attributing low production to lack of access to foreign currency, she said Nestlé Zimbabwe in 2019 launched a transformational plan so that their business becomes less forex intense and focus on import substitution.
“In addition to import substitution, we are also making concerted efforts to increase our exports into the Sadc region so that we become self-sufficient with regards to meeting our forex requirements for goods and services which are not available locally.”
In terms of women empowerment initiatives, Mrs Zhou said they have trained more than 200 women micro distributors for their small pack product portfolio under the Zimbabwe Women Empowered in Business (ZIWEB) initiative and they were working on expanding the project in Bulawayo and Mutare.
“We are developing micro distributors for our small pack product portfolio, through our women empowerment initiative under the banner Zimbabwe Women Empowered in Business (ZIWEB). We currently have almost 200 women in the programme and these women are mainly from Harare. We are looking at expanding the project in Mutare and Bulawayo,” she said.
Mrs Zhou said another programme they were engaged in was the dairy farmer initiatives across the country meant to help boost the country’s national dairy herd. She said the dairy farmers support initiative, which stretches back to 2011, has broader social and economic impacts.
“The Nestle Dairy Empowerment Scheme (NDES) programme was launched in 2011 working with contracted commercial farmers we had at that time. In 2015, we added on small-scale farmers, where our focus lies today.
“We currently have 15 large to medium-scale farmers and three small-scale farmer groups comprising almost 70 individual farmers. The latest being Watershed Small-scale Farmer Hub which has shown incremental gains since its launch last year.”
Mrs Zhou said the group started milking about 2 500 litres per month and by December its farmers had grown milk volumes to about 11 000 litres per month. She said as Nestlé Zimbabwe they expect the group to grow their volumes this year by at least 50 percent.
“The NDES programme is our long-term commitment to work with dairy farmers. Nestlé relies on people and communities within our region to produce the ingredients we use and in turn we are committed to building resilient communities,” said Mrs Zhou.
She said they will continue to work with their current small-scale farmers to ensure they increase their milking herd along with productivity per cow and also build up new small-scale farmer groups to help grow milk production to not only meet their factory requirements but help reduce the current national deficit.
Mr Zhou said during the unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic, their purpose of unlocking the power of food to enhance the quality of life for everyone today and for generations to come, became more important than ever from their supply chain to factory and right through to their consumers’ homes.
She said from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic they were designated as an essential service provider and have remained operational to ensure consistent supply of much needed food in Zimbabwe.
“While we strive to ensure continued operations, our priority remains the safety of our employees, whom we have continued to support during this difficult time,” said Mrs Zhou.
Zimbabwe currently has a significant milk deficit, national demand standing at 120 million litres, while national production stood at 77 million litres in 2020. In the early 90s Zimbabwe used to produce about 440 million litres of milk a year, and the figures dropped to a low of about 35 million litres a year.